ROME – Pope Francis said Sunday that Wilton Gregory – the Archbishop of Washington and architect of the Roman Catholic Church’s zero tolerance policy in the United States in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis – would be promoted to cardinal, what making him the first African American to hold such a position.
The archbishop is one of 13 new cardinals announced on Sunday.
Archbishop Gregory’s uprising, the first American cardinal since 2016, is a demonstration of racial justice, and debates about how to tackle the legacy of slavery and racism have gotten the talk of the race in the United States changed dramatically. In the past few months, Archbishop Gregory has urged Church leaders to improve racial relations. He recalled his time as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the importance of young black Catholics to see a bishop who looked like this.
“It is our duty and privilege to advance the goals so eloquently expressed on this day 57 years ago by such distinguished voices,” Archbishop Gregory said in August during a mass on the 57th anniversary of the March in Washington. “Men and women, young and old, people of all races and ethnicities are needed for this effort.”
He added, “We are at a crucial point in our country’s struggle for racial justice and national harmony.”
The Archbishop of Washington is often promoted to cardinal. Archbishop Gregory took over a diocese that was once ruled by Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl, two prelates tarnished by the sexual abuse crisis in the Church in the early 2000s. Last year, Pope Francis stripped Mr McCarrick of his title of cardinal and then of his status as a priest after he was accused of having found him credible. Cardinal Wuerl left the position amid a cloud of controversy on charges that he had failed to prevent abuse in his Pittsburgh diocese decades earlier.
Archbishop Gregory, who served for years in the Diocese of Atlanta, is also a past President of the United States Bishops ‘Conference and is in keeping with Francis’ pastoral and welcoming attitude in the Church.
The ceremony to install the new cardinals is scheduled for November 28, and the Vatican has not released details of how it would conduct the consistory, an elaborate ceremony in which the Pope physically red hats the heads of the new cardinals in response to concern puts on the corona virus and new restrictions announced in Italy on Sunday.
Usually, new cardinals hold public receptions for well-wishers and believers in the palaces of the Vatican and its conference room. With travel restrictions in place in many countries, it is unclear whether some of the bishops will be able to travel.
Nine of the 13 men named on Sunday, including Archbishop Gregory, are under 80 years of age and can therefore take part in the next conclave to elect the successor of Francis. The new cardinals chosen by Francis reflect his priorities and make the college more likely to choose someone like him.
Also on his list was Celestino Aos, the Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, a boom for the Catholic Church in a country where numerous bishops resigned in 2018 following a sexual abuse scandal.
Other new candidates include senior Vatican officials such as Marcello Semeraro, the prefect in charge of sanctities; and people who closely hold Francis’ vision, such as Mauro Gambetti, a Franciscan friar and administrator of the Holy Monastery of Assisi, which is closely associated with St. Francis. It was this saint whose name the Pope, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, took on when he took over the papacy.
Francis was also cardinal prelate from around the world, as was Antoine Kambanda, Archbishop of Rwanda; Jose Fuerte Advincula, Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines; and Cornelius Sim, Archbishop of Brunei.
Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel from Mexico is one of the nominated people who are over 80 years of age and therefore unable to vote in the next papal elections; the pastor Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan monk in the papal household; Silvano Tomasi, former Vatican diplomat at the United Nations; and Enrico Feroci, the former director of Caritas, the Church’s charity.
Gaia Pianigiani contributed to the coverage.