Pope Francis installs first African American cardinal

Gregory said he hopes to begin a positive relationship with President-elect Joe Biden

Pope Francis has elevated 13 new cardinals to the Catholic hierarchy on Saturday and one of them is the first African American to hold the high rank, according to The Guardian.

Wilton Gregory, 72, an archbishop of Washington D.C. is also the only American who was elevated to the College of Cardinals during the ceremony.

Cardinal Gregory

In June, Gregory, the highest ranking African American Catholic in the history of the United States, would make headlines for his criticism of President Donald Trump who visited a shrine of Pope Saint John Paul II.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said in a statement.

Read More: Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory becomes first African American to lead D.C.’s Catholic Archdiocese

He further criticized Trump and suggested that Pope Saint John Paul II was an “ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings,” adding that “he certainly 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.”

The Guardian reported that Catholic conservatives condemned Wilton’s comments in favor of the president.

Trump’s previous appearance outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which resulted in peaceful protesters being forcefully cleared, sparked controversy and anger amongst religious leaders, The Washington Post reported.

Gregory said he hopes to begin a positive relationship with President-elect Joe Biden rather than “an adversarial mode,” though they don’t share similar views on controversial subjects including abortion.

Read More: Pope marks historic moment in naming first Black US cardinal

Pope Francis warned the new cardinals against exploiting their rankings for personal advantages or corruption. This stance aligns with his current fight against corruption within the Vatican, according to The Associated Press.

“Let’s think of so many types of corruption in the life of the priesthood,” Pope Francis said to the cardinals. “You won’t be pastors close to the people, you’ll just be ‘Eminence.’ And if you feel this way, you’ll have strayed off the road.”

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