October 25, 2020
By Chico Harlan
Rome – Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he would name Washington’s archbishop, Wilton Gregory, a cardinal next month, making him the first African American to earn such a title.
Gregory will be one of the 13 cardinals in the new class, a promotion that comes at a time when he is also trying to rebuild trust in an archdiocese rocked by sexual abuse cases.
The move was widely anticipated, as Washington archbishops are typically named as cardinals after their appointments. But it is nonetheless symbolically significant in the U.S. Catholic Church, where Blacks have been underrepresented among the leadership.
Gregory was appointed as Washington’s archbishop last year, taking over for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who had been accused of mishandling clerical abuse cases.
Gregory, 72, will be eligible to vote for the next pope until he reaches the cutoff age of 80. Francis announced the names of his new cardinals while speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where he delivers his Sunday Angelus. The Vatican said the ceremony to name the new cardinals would take place Nov. 28, though it is unclear if tightening coronavirus restrictions in Italy might interfere.
Among the other new cardinals, four are already over the age of 80, according to the Vatican. The new cardinals include Marcello Semeraro, an Italian who was recently appointed as the head of the church’s saint-making body, and the archbishop of Kigali, Rwanda, Antoine Kambanda.
Gregory has long been among the foremost Catholic leaders in the United States, having lead the national conference of Catholic bishops in the early-2000s, when it was making its first attempt to draw up anti-abuse guidelines. Gregory had been the archbishop of Atlanta before coming to Washington.
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