Story at a glance

  • Archbishop Wilton Gregory will be the first Black American to be elevated to cardinal.
  • The 72 year old has served in many high-profile positions within the church.
  • In 2001, he became the first Black American to be elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the first African American to head D.C.’s archdiocese in May 2019.

Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory will be elevated to the rank of cardinal next month, making him the first Black American to ever hold the distinguished title. 

On Sunday, Pope Francis named 13 new cardinals during his noontime prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, which included 72-year-old Archbishop Gregory. 


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The pontiff asked for prayers so the new cardinals “may help me in my ministry as bishop of Rome for the good of all God’s faithful holy people,” according to The Associated Press

Gregory and the other church leaders will be formally elevated to the rank of cardinal during a ceremony in Rome on Nov. 28

“With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church,” cardinal-elect Gregory said in a statement released by the Archdiocese of Washington.

The 72-year-old archbishop has served in many high-profile positions within the church. 

He was first ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1973 and served as a parish priest. He was later ordained an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1983, before being installed as the bishop of Belleville, Ill., in 1994, and then as archbishop in Atlanta in 2005. 

In 2001, he became the first Black American to be elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the first African American to head D.C.’s archdiocese in May 2019. 

Gregory’s appointment comes as the U.S. is in the midst of a racial reckoning following the police killing of George Floyd in May that sparked widespread protests against police brutality and racial inequity. 

In June, Gregory criticized President Trump’s visit to a Washington shrine honoring Pope John Paul II. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters from a historic Washington church so the president could be photographed holding a bible. 


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Published on Oct 26, 2020