Rome (CNN)For the previous week, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, has been holed up in a Vatican guesthouse, receiving meals at his door.
On Saturday afternoon, if all goes as deliberate, Gregory will step out of his quarters and into historical past. Throughout an set up ceremony deliberate for 4pm in Rome, Gregory will change into the first African American cardinal in Catholic historical past.
Gregory will likely be considered one of 13 males — and the one American — elevated to the Faculty of Cardinals throughout Saturday’s ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, two bishops won’t be in Rome, one other first in church historical past, according to Vatican News.
Consistent with the Pope’s considerations for Catholics who’ve been traditionally marginalized, the opposite soon-to-be cardinals embrace males from Rwanda, Brunei, Chile and the Philippines.
Gregory, 72, already the highest-ranking African-American Catholic in US historical past, instructed CNN this week that he has been praying, writing homilies and letters to well-wishers, and reflecting on his new function.
“It has been a time to thank God for this distinctive second in my life and within the lifetime of the church in the USA,” Gregory stated. “I hope it is a signal to the African American neighborhood that the Catholic Church has a terrific reverence, respect and esteem for the individuals, for my individuals of colour.”
As a Cardinal, Gregory will likely be one of many Pope’s closest advisors and considered one of solely 120 or so males who will elect the subsequent pontiff. Earlier than Francis selected Gregory as Archbishop of Washington final 12 months, he additionally served as a bishop in Belleville, Illinois, and in Atlanta. He was born in Chicago to folks who weren’t Catholic, however transformed to Catholicism whereas attending a parochial college.
The symbolism of Gregory’s choice
In elevating Gregory to the best ranks of the Catholic Church, Francis continues to play shut consideration to racial dynamics in the USA.
He handed over a number of archbishops who would historically change into cardinals to advertise Gregory. He additionally moved Augustine Tolton, who died in 1897 after changing into the first African American priest, one step nearer to sainthood.
Francis has condemned the “tragic dying of” George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by police in Minnesota final Might, and supported an American bishop who knelt in prayer throughout a Black Lives Matter protest.
In a book-length interview published on Monday, Francis once more addressed Floyd’s dying and castigated Individuals who protest mask-wearing mandates meant to forestall the unfold of coronavirus.
“You will by no means discover such individuals protesting the dying of George Floyd, or becoming a member of an illustration as a result of there are shanty cities the place kids lack water or training, or as a result of there are entire households who’ve misplaced their earnings,” Francis stated within the e book, referred to as “Let Us Dream.”
“On such issues they’d by no means protest,” the Pope continued. “They’re incapable of shifting outdoors their very own little world of pursuits.”
Anthea Butler, a scholar of faith on the College of Pennsylvania, stated Francis’ upbringing in Argentina, the place he lived most of his life, gave him a window into racial attitudes within the Americas.
“He’s very conscious of racial injustices and white supremacy,” Butler stated, “and it is not simply realizing what is going on on right here and the way issues have escalated. You may’t dwell in Latin America and never see the historical past of race and slavery.”
Butler, who’s African American, stated she would have been in Rome for Gregory’s set up if not for the pandemic.
“For African American Catholics that is big,” she stated. “We now have been ready a very long time for a cardinal, and it is a recognition of the sacrifices which have been made by individuals of African descent within the Catholic Church.”
Gregory: ‘we didn’t see the largest ache’
The Catholic Church doesn’t inform bishops beforehand that they will be promoted to cardinal, so Gregory heard the information from a pal on October 25, the day the Pope made the announcement from Rome.
And although a trigger for celebration, Gregory’s elevation comes simply weeks after the Vatican launched a damning report about why it neglected accusations of sexual abuse and serial misconduct by a former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick.
“It is not in regards to the buildings of the church, it is in regards to the errors, the terrible dangerous judgments that the church made in not specializing in the folks that had been harmed,” Gregory instructed CNN this week.
“We had been so intent on caring in regards to the clerics, clergymen, or bishops, that we didn’t see that the largest ache to be endured was endured by the folks that had been harm.”
Whereas in Rome, Gregory stated he hasn’t seen or spoken with Pope Francis, who lives within the Vatican guesthouse the place the soon-to-be cardinal has been staying.
However on Saturday, Gregory’s quarantine will likely be over. And Black Individuals’ lengthy look forward to a cardinal will lastly come to an finish.