Pope Francis appoints first African-American cardinal in U.S. Catholic history

Wilton Gregory, the 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington, became the first African-American cardinal

| 11/28/2020 | ionicons-v5-c16: 01 | S. Rocha |

UNITED STATES.- Pope Francis consecrated 13 new cardinals this Saturday, including the first African-American to occupy the high rank, further expanding the pontiff’s impact on the group that will one day elect his successor.

The cardinals were invested in a ceremony, known as a consistory, which was notably limited because of COVID-19.

Instead of the usual thousands of people, only 10 guests were allowed per cardinal in St. Peter’s Basilica, when the Pope gave men his ring and his traditional red hat, known as the mortarboard.

Nine of the 13 are under the age of 80 and eligible under Catholic Church law to enter a secret conclave to elect the next pope after Francis dies or resigns.

It was Francis’ seventh consistory since his election in 2013. He has now appointed 57% of 128 cardinal electors, most of whom share his vision for a more inclusive and open church.

So far, he has appointed 18 cardinals from mostly distant countries that never had one, nearly all from developing nations. In Saturday’s consistory, Brunei and Rwanda won their first cardinals.

While Europe still has the highest proportion of cardinal electors, at 41%, it is down from 52% in 2013 when Francis became the first Latin American pope.

The nine new cardinal electors come from Mexico, Chile, Brunei, Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States and the Philippines.

Wilton gregory, the archbishop 72 years of Washington, became the first African American cardinal at a time when the United States is on the lookout for race relations following a series of police abuses against unarmed blacks.