Though African-Americans form about 13 per cent of the population of the United States, Wilton Gregory became the first catholic priest from this community to become a cardinal. It needs to be mentioned that only five per cent of African-Americans are Catholic. Gregory has served as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC since May 2019.
He was among the 13 new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis in a ceremony at the Vatican on Saturday. Like other major occasions this year the ceremony was scaled down due to the corona virus pandemic.
Speaking to the media before the event, Mr. Gregory said that he viewed his appointment as “an affirmation of Black Catholics in the United States, the heritage of faith and fidelity that we represent”.
It needs to be stated that Mr. Gregory was in the news earlier this year when he criticised President Donald Trump for his government’s role in mis-handling the Black Rights movement following the killing of George Floyd.
Curiously, the appointment of Wilton Gregory as cardinal has come at a time when right-wing and racist forces are on the rise in the United States. The killing of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. Incidentally, America elected its first Black President twelve years before the appointment of any cardinal. Recently, Kamala Harris, a mixed Indian-African American woman was elected as the Vice President of the country.
America has, according to Pew Research Centre, 51 million Catholics, roughly accounting for one-fifth of the country’s population. John F. Kennedy and President-elect Joe Biden are the only two Roman Catholics to reach the top position. America is predominantly a Protestant country.
It also needs to be stated that Pope Francis himself comes from Argentina and thus is the first Pope from a Latin American country.