İrem UZUN -TDO- Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who would become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat. Gregory will be elevated to the position in a ceremony at the Vatican on November 28.
Cardinals' primary responsibility is to elect a new pope, should he step down or die, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pope Francis confirmed that nine of the 13 new cardinals are under the age of 80, which means they would be eligible to elect his successor.
"With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ's Church," Gregory said in a statement. Gregory, 72, has served in many high-profile positions within the church. When he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, he became the first African-American to hold the office. At the time, he said he considered his election "an expression of the love of the Catholic Church for people of color," adding that he hoped it would inspire those Black people who are "lukewarm in their faith" to renew their commitment to the church.
In the U.S., Archbishop Gregory has been a prominent voice in the effort to root out abuse within the Church. As president of the US bishops' conference, he persuaded Church leaders to adopt tougher penalties for abusers in 2002. He has been critical of President Donald Trump over his use of rhetoric and visits to religious sites. The archbishop rebuked President Trump's visit to a shrine to St John Paul II in Washington, calling it "baffling and reprehensible".