Pope Francis’s elevation of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C. to the College of Cardinals is an historic event, a personal tribute and a blessing for the Church in the United States.
The historic character of the Pope’s decision is the appointment of the first African American to the College of Cardinals. For several decades there have been African American bishops in the Church in the United States, but this appointment is a singular event recognizing the contribution of the African American community to the work of the Church in this country.
The Holy Father’s choice, of course, is not simply about history. It is a recognition of the personal qualities and fruitful pastoral ministry of Cardinal-elect Gregory. Ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago, then Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, Cardinal-elect Gregory later led the Archdiocese of Atlanta for more than fourteen years, before being appointed to the See of Washington, D.C. in 2019. He also served as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001-2004.
The long and valiant struggle for racial justice in this country from the 17th century to the inspiring events of 2020 has been given a powerful acknowledgment by the Holy Father whose voice for social justice, human dignity and equality has been a hallmark of his papacy.
Throughout his ministry Cardinal-elect Gregory has been a consistent advocate of these same themes, addressing them through faith, reason and his own personal experience as an African American priest and bishop. Based on this personal and pastoral experience, Cardinal-elect Gregory will bring wisdom, insight and a passion for justice to the College of Cardinals, the Holy Father’s uniquely important collaborators. We offer prayerful best wishes to Cardinal-elect Gregory and gratitude to Pope Francis for this appointment.
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