The Catholic community in the State of Washington now has a new leader, and he is making history for the Church of the United States by being the first African-American to be appointed as Archbishop of the State.
On Thursday, April 4, Pope Francis officially named Archbishop Wilton Gregory as the new Archbishop of Washington. He succeeds Cardinal Donald Wuerl who resigned from the post last year.
Gregory, now 71, is a Chicago native who converted to Catholicism while he was a student in the Chicago Catholic grade school. He was ordained a priest in 1971, consecrated as an auxiliary bishop in his home diocese at age 36, and was made Bishop of Belleville, Illinois in 1994. In 2004, Gregory was named as Archbishop of Atlanta and has served in the city ever since.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Gregory has ordained 64 men to priesthood and has overseen the welcoming of more than 16,000 people as converts into the Catholic Church while he was the Archbishop of Atlanta. But even before then, Gregory was already being recognized for his active efforts in promoting the values of the church. Within the years 2001 to 2004, Gregory served as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also helped lead the American hierarchy through the fallout of the Church’s 2002 sexual abuse scandals.
“I have known Archbishop Gregory for many years,” Cardinal Wuerl told Catholic News Agency when asked about Archbishop Gregory’s succession of his post. “In working with him on a range of pastoral initiatives and programs, I have come to recognize how generously he shares his talents and his love for the Church.”
“As the Church of Washington opens a new chapter and looks to the future, we can all, with great confidence and enthusiasm, welcome our new shepherd,” he added.