Pope Francis Appoints First Black American Cardinal

Tara C. Mahadevan
·2 min read

Pope Francis has tapped Wilton Gregory to become the first Black American cardinal.

The New York Times reports that the Pope announced his decision on Sunday from St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, with Gregory to be one of 13 to be appointed at a ceremony on Nov. 28. Gregory was designated as the archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2019, making history as D.C.’s first Black archbishop; he is also currently the only Black archbishop in the U.S. Prior to his D.C. assignment, he led the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Gregory is known for guiding the Catholic Church through its response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the early 2000s. He replaced Cardinal Donald Wuerl in D.C. after he resigned in October 2018 due to his role in the crisis.

As protests fighting police brutality are ongoing across the U.S., Gregory has also been vocal about the church improving race relations.

“Ours is the task and the privilege of advancing the goals that were so eloquently expressed 57 years ago by such distinguished voices on that day,” Gregory said in August, during a Mass celebrating the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. “Men and women, young and old, people of every racial and ethnic background are needed in this effort.”

He added: “We are at a pivotal juncture in our country’s struggle for racial justice and national harmony.”

The cardinals’ main responsibility is to elect a new pope if the current one steps down or dies. Francis confirmed that nine of the 13 new cardinals are under the age of 80, which makes them eligible to elect Francis’ successor.

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