Historic First in Nation’s Capital

Tags: Currents Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archdiocese of Washington, Pope Francis, USCCB

By Tim Harfmann

On April 4th, Archbishop Wilton Gregory was appointed the new leader of the Archdiocese of Washington. “Today, I humbly begin a new chapter in my life and in my pastoral ministry, as I accept the appointment of Pope Francis to become the 7th archbishop of Washington,” said Archbishop Gregory.

Brooklyn’s Nicholas DiMarzio knows the archbishop well and applauded the Holy Father’s decision to pick him. “He’s someone you can confide in and get good advice. He’s concerned about other dioceses and how things go. So, he truly is a good choice,” said Bishop DiMarzio.

The 71-year-old Chicago native served as a local priest, then an auxiliary bishop in his hometown. Since 2006, Gregory led over a million Catholics in Atlanta’s archdiocese. “I want to come to know you, to hear your stories; to listen to the emotions, experiences and expectations that have shaped your precious Catholic faith,” Gregory said to his new flock.

The archbishop succeeds Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned after controversy arose over his handling of abuse cases when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. Gregory aims to rekindle the faith in his new post; “I want to offer you hope. I will rebuild your trust.”

The archbishop is a former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and guided them through the clerical sex abuse crisis in 2002. “He was very calm and stable and did lead us through it without ever losing his temper. He was able to keep people together. That’s a great gift,” said Bishop DiMarzio.

Now, the archbishop becomes one of the most influential African American voices in America. He was appointed on the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination and becomes the first African-American Catholic leader of Washington. “(Gregory) has a great love for the community, really expressing who we are as African-American Catholics. And I think he’ll bring a lot of his gifts and talents to Washington,” said Father Alonzo Cox, director of the Vicariate for Black Catholic Concerns in the Brooklyn diocese.

Archbishop Gregory’s installation is scheduled for Friday, May 17th.