First African American Cardinal in US History

This Saturday in Rome, Archbishop Wilton Gregory from Washington, D.C. has become the first African American Cardinal in Catholic church history. At age 72, Gregory is already the highest-ranking African American Catholic in U.S. history. As a Cardinal, Gregory will become one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors and will also be one of up to 120 other Cardinals responsible for electing the next pontiff.

Born in Chicago, Gregory converted to Catholicism while attending parochial school. He reflected on his new role by saying “It’s been a time to thank God for this unique moment in my life and in the life of the church in the United States.” He went on to say that he hopes “it’s a sign to the African American community that the Catholic church has a great reverence, respect, and esteem for the people, my people of color.”

By selecting Gregory, Pope Francis is rewarding a man who stood up to Trump back in June when he condemned him for tear-gassing a group of racial justice demonstrators outside of the White House for a photo-op of himself in front of the iconic St. John’s Episcopal Church. Gregory has also spent decades standing up to sexual abuse by clergy members.

Gregory’s elevation to Cardinal comes as no surprise if you look at Pope Francis’ progressive and sometimes controversial papacy. Here are some of his most liberal moves to date:

  • Stating that even atheists can go to heaven – May 2013
  • Condemning careerism in the church  – June 2013
  • Refusing to judge homosexuals – July 2013
  • Slamming consumer culture, corporate greed, and trickle down theory – November 2013
  • Welcoming a transgender audience – January 2015
  • Standing up for climate change – June 2015
  • Forgiving women who have abortions – September 2015
  • Streamlining annulments – September 2015

Written by: Kelly Stewart