Wilton Gregory to become 1st African American cardinal Saturday

U.S.

This Sunday, June 2, 2019, file photo shows Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory posed for a portrait following mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

ROME (NewsNation Now) — Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., is set to become the first African American cardinal in the Catholic Church Saturday.

Gregory, 72, carries a legacy of combating racial discrimination and sexual abuse in the church. He has also acknowledged the need for more inclusive treatment of LGBTQ Catholics. Gregory was picked by Francis to lead the prestigious diocese in the U.S. capital last year.

Pope Francis on Saturday will elevate Gregory and 12 other clerics to the College of Cardinals, the elite group of red-robed churchmen whose primary task is to elect a new pope.

The Vatican has said two new cardinals won’t make it to Rome for the ceremony, known as a consistory, because of COVID-19 and travel concerns.

The Vatican is arranging for them, and any of the cardinals who might not make it, to participate in the ceremony remotely from their homes. They’ll get their three-pointed “biretta” hats from a Vatican ambassador or another envoy.

The other new cardinals have been in quarantine in pope’s hotel.

Pope Francis named the 13 new cardinals in a surprise announcement to the faithful outside of his window in St. Peter’s Square last month.

In a Zoom call, Gregory said he was humbled by Francis’ decision to make him a cardinal and said he would return to a United States still in the throes of the pandemic with hope that vaccines against the virus will soon work.

“I hope we can use them effectively to protect people and … once this pandemic is brought under control, to face the future with hope,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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