The Maryland Catholic Conference on Sunday celebrated the news that Pope Francis plans to elevate Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to the College of Cardinals during a ceremony on Nov. 28.
Gregory will become the first Black cardinal in U.S. history.
In a surprise announcement from a window in St. Peter’s Square Sunday morning, the pontiff said he was appointing 13 new cardinals, including Gregory. Gregory, who is 72, has served as archbishop of Washington for the past year — and previously was archbishop in Atlanta for 14 years. He headed the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the early aughts.
“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,” Gregory said in a statement released by the Washington Archdiocese on Sunday.
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, called Gregory’s elevation “a great honor for him, for the people he serves, and for all of us here in Maryland.” The church, she said, “will gain from his wisdom, kindness and faith.”
Kraska also noted the “special significance” of Gregory’s appointment during a time of racial reckoning in the U.S. Earlier this month, he participated in a virtual town hall on police reform in Maryland and in June, he and the other bishops of Maryland released a letter on racial justice, expressing regret for the Catholic church’s role in perpetuating racism in the U.S. and in Maryland.
“Throughout his ministry, Cardinal-elect Gregory has sought to address wrongs and bridge differences,” Kraska said.
The Maryland Catholic Conference is the statewide public policy organization for the Catholic Church in Maryland. Over one million Catholics live in Maryland as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Washington, and Diocese of Wilmington, Del. In Maryland, the Archdiocese of Washington includes Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties.