Archbishop To Become First African American Cardinal In Catholic History
Archbishop Wilton Gregory will become the first African American cardinal in Catholic history.
The 72-year-old, from Washington, D.C., is currently staying in a Vatican guesthouse. Today, November 28, he’ll attend a ceremony at around 4pm in Rome, at which point he’ll become an historic figure.
A total of 13 men, with Gregory being the only American, are set to be elevated to College of Cardinals during the ceremony. In another first for the Vatican, two bishops won’t be in Rome due to the current pandemic.
Pope Francis has previously shared concerns over Catholics who’ve suffered injustices and been marginalised in the past. Soon, men from Rwanda, Brunei, Chile and the Philippines are set to become cardinals.
Gregory is already the highest-ranking African American in US history. Prior to being chosen as Archbishop of Washington, he was a bishop in Belleville, Illinois and Atlanta. In addition to being one of the Pope’s closest advisors, he’ll also be one of 120 men bestowed with the honour of choosing the next pontiff.
Ahead of the ceremony, he told CNN:
It’s been a time to thank God for this unique moment in my life and in the life of the church in the United States. I hope it’s a sign to the African American community that the Catholic Church has a great reverence, respect and esteem for the people, for my people of colour.
He was ‘very much surprised’ when he found out about his ascension, explaining to CBS News: ‘I got a phone call at 6.30 in the morning… that’s how I found out.’
While Gregory wasn’t raised as a Catholic, he converted while attending a parochial school. He’s been vocal in the ongoing campaigns against racial injustice across the US, having condemned the ‘tragic death’ of George Floyd. When another bishop kneeled in prayer to honour a Black Lives Matter protest, he supported him.
Gregory had been known for his stance against ‘lame duck’ POTUS Donald Trump, however he hopes for a different relationship with President-elect Joe Biden. ‘I want to begin whatever conversations ensue in a positive vein, rather than in an adversarial mode,’ he said.
He also told Reuters:
I have always seen myself as someone who is charged with being in dialogue and in conversation, so I hope that my conversation with the new administration reflects that, knowing full well that there are areas about which we disagree, but also searching for those areas where we can find common ground.
Anthea Butler, an African American scholar of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, said, ‘For African American Catholics this is huge. We have been waiting a long time for a cardinal, and it’s a recognition of the sacrifices that have been made by people of African descent in the Catholic Church.’
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