Tom Gjelten, NPR, April 4, 2019
A shadow of scandal hanging over the Washington, D.C. archdiocese has been lifted with the appointment of a new archbishop, Wilton Gregory, currently leading the archdiocese of Atlanta.
Gregory, 71, is generally well regarded in the church, having served as a bishop for 35 years, including a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the only living African-American archbishop in the United States, and with his appointment in Washington, Gregory is poised to become the first African-American cardinal from the United States.
At a press conference in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Gregory pledged to give the faithful reasons to stay with the church. “I want to offer you hope. I will rebuild your trust,” he pledged. “I cannot undue the past. But I sincerely believe that together we will not merely address the moments where we have fallen short or failed outright, but we will model for all the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As the most prominent African-American Catholic bishop, Gregory has been a strong voice for civil rights and tolerance. His appointment as the D.C. archbishop comes on the anniversary of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorating the event last year in a homily at a remembrance mass in Atlanta, Gregory said the nation was dealing with “as problematic” a political situation as it faced in 1968.
“Xenophobia, racism’s clone, masquerades today as a patriotic response to the presence of immigrants and refugees who are in our midst,” he said. “Moreover, people in our nation continue to be victimized because of their color, or their first language, or their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs like too many people did 50 years ago.”