Archbishop Wilton Gregory becomes the first Black American Cardinal in the Catholic church’s history. Archbishop Gregory was born and raised in Chicago and ordained a priest in 1973. A product of the Englewood neighborhood, he grew up in a family that was not Catholic. They converted to Catholicism while in Catholic School. He attended Quigley Seminary, Niles College, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary school in Mundelein. He earned his doctorate in sacred liturgy in Rome from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute before returning to Chicago. In Chicago, Archbishop Gregory served in various leadership positions. Cardinal Joseph Bernadin appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop in Chicago in the early 80s.
On November 28, Archbishop became one of 13 bishops and priests promoted to Cardinal. The new class of cardinals quarantined in a Vatican Guesthouse before participating in the ceremony. Archbishop Gregory received his red hat and ring presented to him by Pope Francis.
The highest-ranking African American Catholic, Gregory, has served the Catholic church for over 20 years. He is currently the Archbishop of Washington DC. Archbishop Gregory told the Associated Press that he viewed his appointment “as an affirmation of Black Catholics in the United States and the heritage of faith and fidelity that we represent.”
Wilton Gregory most recently spoke out against the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd earlier this year. He was also strongly critical of President Trump and the St. John Paul Shrine in Washington DC, where he serves as Archbishop after Trump posed in front of the church with a bible in hand upside down after authorizing federal law enforcement to spray protestors with tear gas. In an official statement, he said, “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any catholic church would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated.”
Archbishop Gregory became Cardinal with a diverse class of men of color from Rwanda, Brunei, and the Philippines. As Cardinal, Archbishop Gregory can counsel and elect a pope, contribute to the church’s governance, and act as a papal envoy.
Danielle Sanders is a writer and journalist living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.