New cardinal source of pride, hope, say local Black Catholics

By Gina Christian • Posted November 30, 2020

The appointment of the first African American cardinal is a profound affirmation of Black Catholic spirituality, said local faithful.

During a Nov. 28 consistory at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Pope Francis created 13 new cardinals, among them Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington. As part of his elevation, Cardinal Gregory was also given a titular church in Rome, Immaculate Conception Parish, thereby making him a formal member of the Roman diocesan clergy.

The Chicago native has a long history of church leadership, having served 11 years as bishop of the Diocese of Belleville – and three as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) — before his installation as Archbishop of Atlanta in 2005. Last April, Pope Francis appointed him as Archbishop of Washington.

With a doctorate in sacred liturgy and nine honorary doctorates, Cardinal Gregory has published widely on a number of subjects, among them liturgy in the African American community, gun violence, the death penalty, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

But his inclusion in the College of Cardinals may be his most powerful declaration yet.

“(It) is a clear statement that the church is the home of Black Catholics,” said Father Stephen Thorne, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in North Philadelphia.

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