İrem UZUN -TDO- Pope Francis has confirmed 13 new cardinals to the highest rank of the Catholic Church hierarchy, including the first African American to hold the position. In a ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Saturday, which was scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope gave the 13 men their ring and traditional red hat, known as a biretta. Wilton Gregory, the 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, was announced as one of the new cardinals last month.
Gregory was one of 13 men - and the only American - elevated to the College of Cardinals during Saturday's ceremony. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, two of the bishops were not in Rome for the ceremony, another first in church history, according to Vatican News. "It's been a time to thank God for this unique moment in my life and in the life of the church in the United States," Gregory said. "I hope it's a sign to the African American community that the Catholic Church has a great reverence, respect and esteem for the people, for my people of color."
As a Cardinal, Gregory will be one of the Pope's closest advisers and one of only 120 or so men who will elect the next pontiff. The archbishop, known for his outspokenness on many issues challenging the church, made welcoming diversity to the church, including members of the LGBTQ community, one of his keystone missions. Gregory said that while he doesn't share President-elect Joe Biden's view on abortion, he hopes to build a good relationship with him. Biden is the second Catholic elected as president.