October 26, 2020
By Elana Schor
Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory is set to become the first Black U.S. prelate to assume the rank of cardinal in the Catholic Church, a historic appointment that comes months after nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice.
Gregory’s ascension, announced on Sunday by Pope Francis alongside 12 other newly named cardinals, elevates a leader who has drawn praise for his handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has roiled the church. The Washington-area archbishop also has spoken out in recent days about the importance of Catholic leaders working to combat the sin of racial discrimination.
The 72-year-old Gregory, ordained in his native Chicago in 1973, took over leadership of the capital’s archdiocese last year after serving as archbishop of Atlanta since 2005. The ceremony making his elevation official is slated for Nov. 28.
“With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church,” Gregory said in a statement issued by the archdiocese.
Gregory helped shape the church’s “zero tolerance” response to the sexual abuse scandal while serving as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004. During that period, the bishops adopted a charter designed to govern its treatment of sexual abuse allegations made by minor children against priests. The church’s efforts since 2004 have helped achieve a sharp reduction in child-sex abuse cases. But some abuse continues to occur, and the church’s procedures for addressing abuse continue to incur criticism from those who feel there’s a lack of consistency and transparency.
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