CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The first African American Cardinal in history recently sat down with NewsNation to talk about his new role in the Catholic church, his thoughts on President-elect Joe Biden and some advice for Americans after a tough 2020.
Cardinal Gregory began the interview by saying, “First of all, as I knelt before the Holy Father to receive the Cardinal’s biretta and ring and the decree of my titular church I was deeply humbled.”
Cardinal Wilton Gregory received the red hat and ring from Pope Francis in late November, becoming the first-ever Black American Cardinal.
“People have, I think, they may have the impression that when you’re given these new titles and a new position that they come with a playbook that tells you ‘you do this’,” said Cardinal Gregory. “And then, what happens is I will have to find out how Pope Francis wants to use me as a member of his College of Cardinals and I of course will do whatever he wants me to do.”
Gregory, 73, who hails from the South Side of Chicago and converted to Catholicism as a boy with the goal of becoming a priest, says he was positively influenced by priests at his parochial school.
“I admired them. I thought I’d like to become like them and I still would like to become like them when I grow up,” said Gregory.
With hints of his sense of humor peeking through while discussing his past, the Cardinal is also looking toward the future. When asked how he plans to engage with President-elect Joe Biden, who will be the second Catholic elected in U.S. history, Cardinal Gregory is clear: “I hope to provide whatever pastoral care and guidance I can to one of the members of my flock – a very prominent member of my flock and we’ll see where that goes.”
Cardinal Gregory says he’s never met Mr. Biden, who supports a woman’s right to choose, which goes against Catholic doctrine, although Biden has said he personally opposes abortion.
“I simply want to be a good pastor for him and that involves pointing out where we can agree but also clearly pointing out where we disagree. We disagree over church teaching,” said Gregory.
He adds that he’s open to engaging with the President-elect as his Bishop.
“I’m not going to begin a conversation with prohibitions. I’m going to begin a conversation that is sincere, honest, straight-forward and clear in what the church teaches,” said Gregory. “But also supportive in ways that he could as a good Catholic as one who goes to mass every Sunday, could be supportive of.”
Finally, Cardinal Gregory has advice when it comes to an issue we’ve all had to deal with this year – the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not going to be a light switch change, it’s going to take time. I certainly would like to encourage people to study carefully the options the vaccines provide, to be familiar with them and to take advantage of them,” said Gregory. “It seems to me that if we work at this together if it’s a collaborative effort, if the confidence in medicine and in science is verified, we will have a much better 2021.”
In addition to his support of the science and medical communities, Cardinal Gregory also emphasized the importance of continuing what he called the “safe environment procedures” that are already in place.