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Pope Francis appoints the first African-American cardinal

ROME – Pope Francis said on Sunday that Wilton Gregory – the Archbishop of Washington and an architect of the Roman Catholic Church’s zero tolerance policy in the United States in response to his office sexual abuse crisis – would be high to the rank of cardinal, making him the first African-American. occupy such a position.

The archbishop is one of 13 new cardinals announced on Sunday.

The elevation of Archbishop Gregory, the first American appointed cardinal since 2016, comes as protests for racial justice and debates over how to deal with the legacy of slavery and racism have radically changed the conversation about breed in the United States. In recent months, Archbishop Gregory has urged church leaders to improve race relations, recalling his time as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and how important it was for young black Catholics to see a bishop who looked like them.

“We have the task and the privilege of advancing the goals that were so eloquently expressed 57 years ago by such distinguished voices that day,” Bishop Gregory said in August, at a mass commemorating the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. “Men and women, young and old, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are needed in this effort.”

He added: “We are at a pivotal moment in our country’s struggle for racial justice and national harmony.”

The Archbishop of Washington is often elevated to the rank of cardinal. Archbishop Gregory took over a diocese once ruled by Theodore McCarrick and Donald Wuerl, two prelates tarnished by the sexual abuse crisis in the church of the early 2000s. Last year, Pope Francis stripped Mr. McCarrick of his ‘first of his title of cardinal, then of his status as a priest after accusations of sexual abuse against him that the Church considered credible. Cardinal Wuerl left the post amid a cloud of controversy amid accusations he had failed to prevent abuse decades earlier in his diocese of Pittsburgh.

Archbishop Gregory, who has served for years in the Diocese of Atlanta, is also a past president of the American Bishops ‘Conference and is considered consistent with Francis’ pastoral and welcoming approach to the church.

The installation ceremony for the new cardinals is scheduled for November 28, and the Vatican has not given any details on how it would conduct the consistory, an ornate ceremony in which the pope physically puts red hats on his head. new cardinals, given concerns about the coronavirus and the new restrictions announced Sunday in Italy.

Usually, the new cardinals hold public receptions for sympathizers and faithful in the Vatican palaces and its conference hall. With travel restrictions in place in many countries, it is unclear whether some of the bishops will be able to make the trip.

Nine of the 13 men appointed on Sunday, including Archbishop Gregory, are under 80 and are therefore eligible to participate in the next conclave to elect Francis’ successor. The new cardinals chosen by Francis reflect his priorities, making it more likely that the college will elect someone like him.

His list also included Celestino Aos, the Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, a push for the Catholic Church in a country where many bishops resigned in 2018 after a sexual abuse scandal.

Other new appointees include senior Vatican officials such as Marcello Semeraro, the prefect in charge of holiness; and people who closely represent the vision of Francis, such as Mauro Gambetti, Franciscan friar and guardian of the Holy Convent of Assisi, closely associated with Saint Francis. It was this saint whose name the Pope, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio, adopted when he assumed the papacy.

Francis also appealed to cardinal prelates from all over the world, such as Antoine Kambanda, archbishop of Rwanda; Jose Fuerte Advincula, Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines; and Cornelius Sim, Archbishop of Brunei.

Nominees who are over 80 and therefore unable to vote in the next papal election include Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of Mexico; the Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, Franciscan Brother of the Pontifical House; Silvano Tomasi, former Vatican diplomat to the United Nations; and Enrico Feroci, the former director of Caritas, the charitable arm of the church.

Gaia Pianigiani contribution to reports.