• Sun. Apr 11th, 2021

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Pope Francis appoints first Black American cardinal

Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory was among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis on Sunday and will become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat.

Gregory was picked by Francis to lead the prestigious diocese in the U.S. capital last year. He served three times as the head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

The newly elected cardinal was part of a select group of Catholic leaders that criticized President Donald Trump for staging a picture in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House, amid protests about the death of George Floyd.

Archbishop Wilton said that the previous Pope, John Paul would “not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Pope Francis made the surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter’s Square. He said they would be elevated to the rank of cardinal on Nov. 28.

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The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan friar and long-time papal preacher at the Vatican was among the other new cardinals, along with Rwandan Archbishop Antoine Kambanda and Archbishop Jose Feurte Advincula from the Philippines.

Chilean Archbishop Celestino Aos will also be elevated, along with Franciscan Friar Mauro Gambetti, in charge of the Sacred Convent in Assisi.

When elected in 2013, the pope chose St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake saint, and earlier this month, he journeyed to that hill town in Umbria to sign an encyclical, or important church teaching document, about brotherhood.

New cardinals under the age of 80 will join fellow cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave.

Roman Catholic Church rules usually limit the number of cardinal electors to 120 but popes have bent that limit by naming more.

No details were immediately given by the Vatican about the concistory or the formal ceremony to make the churchmen cardinals.

But it could be some time in view of travel restrictions involving many countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.