Pope makes his­tory in el­e­vat­ing Black arch­bishop

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NA­TION - By Elana Schor Elana Schor is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WASH­ING­TON — Wash­ing­ton Arch­bishop Wil­ton Gre­gory is set to be­come the first Black U. S. prelate to as­sume the rank of car­di­nal in the Catholic Church, a his­toric ap­point­ment that comes months after na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions against racial in­jus­tice.

Gre­gory’s as­cen­sion, an­nounced on Sun­day by Pope Fran­cis along­side 12 other newly named car­di­nals, el­e­vates a leader who has drawn praise for his han­dling of the sex­ual abuse scan­dal that has roiled the church. The Wash­ing­tonarea arch­bishop also has spo­ken out about the im­por­tance of Catholic lead­ers work­ing to com­bat the sin of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The 72yearold Gre­gory, or­dained in his na­tive Chicago in 1973, took over lead­er­ship of the cap­i­tal’s arch­dio­cese last year after serv­ing as arch­bishop of At­lanta since 2005. The cer­e­mony mak­ing his el­e­va­tion of­fi­cial is slated for Nov. 28.

“With a very grate­ful and hum­ble heart, I thank Pope Fran­cis for this ap­point­ment,” Gre­gory said in a state­ment is­sued by the arch­dio­cese.

Gre­gory helped shape the church’s “zero tol­er­ance” re­sponse to the sex­ual abuse scan­dal while serv­ing as pres­i­dent of the U. S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops from 2001 to 2004. Dur­ing that pe­riod, the bish­ops adopted a char­ter de­signed to gov­ern its treat­ment of sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions made by mi­nor chil­dren against priests.

The church’s ef­forts since 2004 have helped achieve a sharp re­duc­tion in child­sex abuse cases. But some abuse con­tin­ues to oc­cur, and the church’s pro­ce­dures con­tinue to in­cur crit­i­cism from those who feel there’s a lack of con­sis­tency and trans­parency.

More re­cently, amid na­tion­wide protests this sum­mer sparked by the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis, Gre­gory made head­lines for is­su­ing a state­ment crit­i­cal of

Pres­i­dent Trump’s visit to the Saint John Paul II Na­tional Shrine. That visit came one day after demon­stra­tors were force­fully cleared to fa­cil­i­tate Trump’s visit to an Epis­co­pal church in Wash­ing­ton, and Gre­gory re­sponded that he con­sid­ered “it baf­fling and rep­re­hen­si­ble that any Catholic fa­cil­ity would al­low it­self to be so egre­giously mis­used and ma­nip­u­lated.”

In ad­di­tion to his work com­bat­ing racial in­jus­tice and sex­ual abuse in the church, Gre­gory has drawn no­tice for his more in­clu­sive treat­ment of LGBTQ Catholics. In 2014, he wrote a pos­i­tive col­umn about his con­ver­sa­tions with a group of Catholic par­ents of LGBTQ chil­dren.

Fran­cis DeBernardo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of New Ways Min­istry, which rep­re­sents LGBTQ Catholics, said his group is “very ex­cited” to see Gre­gory’s el­e­va­tion and con­nected it to Fran­cis’ re­cently re­ported com­ments sup­port­ing civil unions for same­sex cou­ples.

An­drew Harnik / As­so­ci­ated Press 2019

Arch­bishop Wil­ton Gre­gory greets parish­ioners last year at St. Au­gus­tine Church in Wash­ing­ton. Gre­gory will be the first Black U. S. prelate to as­sume the rank of car­di­nal.

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