Cardinal-designate Gregory thanks Pope Francis ‘with grateful, humble heart’

By Mark Zimmermann | Catholic News Service
Sunday, October 25, 2020

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was one of 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis Oct. 25. He is pictured celebrating the closing Mass of the Archbishop Lyke Conference in National Harbor, Md., in this July 6, 2019, file photo. (CNS photo/Andrew Rozario, Catholic Standard)

WASHINGTON — Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory, installed as Washington’s archbishop in May 2019, thanked Pope Francis “with a very grateful and humble heart” for naming him as one of 13 new cardinals Oct. 25.

“This appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s church,” he said in a statement issued shortly after the pope announced new cardinals at the end of his Angelus address.

Cardinal-designate Gregory will be the first African American cardinal from the United States to be elevated to the College of Cardinals. He and the other 12 prelates will to be elevated at a Nov. 28 consistory at the Vatican.

Nine of the new cardinals are under age 80 and will be eligible to vote in a conclave; four elderly churchmen will receive red hats as a sign of esteem and honor.

In addition to Cardinal-designate Gregory, the pope chose as cardinal electors two officials of the Roman Curia and bishops from Italy, Rwanda, the Philippines, Chile and Brunei.

A native of Chicago, Cardinal-designate Gregory turns 73 Dec. 7. As a sixth grader attending St. Carthage School in Chicago in 1958, he was inspired by the example of the parish priests and Adrian Dominican sisters there to become Catholic.

At the news conference when he was introduced as Washington’s new archbishop, he said, “Within six weeks of being in Catholic school and not being from a Catholic background, I said, ‘I want to be a priest.’”

Wilton Daniel Gregory was baptized as a Catholic during the Easter Vigil that school year.

Later, after studying as a seminarian, he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1973, and earned a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome in 1980.

After serving as a parish priest in Chicago and as a master of ceremonies to Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1983.

In 1994, Bishop Gregory was installed as the bishop of Belleville, Illinois, where he served for the next 11 years. Bishop Gregory was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001 after serving as three years as the vice president.

During his service as USCCB president from 2001 to 2004, the church’s clergy sex abuse crisis escalated, and under his leadership, the bishops implemented the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

St. John Paul II appointed Bishop Gregory to serve as the archbishop of Atlanta, where he was installed in 2005 and served until Pope Francis named him as the new archbishop of Washington in 2019.

At the news conference where he was introduced as Washington’s new archbishop, Archbishop Gregory promised to work for healing in the archdiocese, which had been shaken by the clergy abuse crisis, including the resignation and removal from the priesthood of Theodore McCarrick, former Washington archbishop and cardinal, following charges that McCarrick had abused minors and engaged in sexual misconduct with adults.

“I am arriving with a commitment to transparency,” then-Archbishop Gregory said. “The only way I can serve this archdiocese is by telling the truth. I will always tell the truth.”

At his installation Mass as Washington’s new archbishop, Archbishop Gregory pointed to the Gospel story of Jesus calming the stormy seas when he was in the boat with his apostles.

“I remind you ... he is here. He is here when the seas are calm, and he is here during every moment of uncertainty, anger, fear and shame. He invites us to place our trust in him,” Archbishop Gregory said.

In a statement, Cardinal Cupich said, “We are grateful to Pope Francis for his appointment today of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as cardinal of the Catholic Church. While we take particular pride in this recognition of a dedicated priest, whom we are proud to claim as our own, we are also moved that Pope Francis chose this compassionate, thoughtful pastor when our nation and the world are in desperate need of healing and courageous leadership.”

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Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden in Rome.


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