Wilton Gregory is the First African American Cardinal

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Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Over the weekend, archbishop of Washington D.C., Wilton Gregory became the first African-American cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. 

Alongside Gregory, Pope Francis raised 12 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals during a ceremony at the Vatican on Saturday. A cardinal is the highest ranking position in the Catholic hierarchy after the pope. There are currently 128 Cardinals across the globe who are under the age of 80, making them eligible to vote for the next pope, NPR reports.

Ahead of the ceremony, Gregory told CBS it’s challenging to maintain social distance and conduct his ministry. 

“It’s one of the most painful experiences of any minister,” Gregory told CBS. 

Other Black Catholics have expressed excitement for Gregory’s appointment.

“The fact that it comes in this month of November, Black Catholic History Month, is also very symbolic,” Father Robert Boxie III, the Catholic chaplain at Howard University told America Magazine. “In the church’s 2,000 years this has never happened,” Boxie said.

Gregory, who has criticized President Trump for taking problematic photos in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, has expressed hopes of building a positive relationship with president-elect Joe Biden.

“So that you don’t begin with condemnation, you begin with conversation,” Gregory told CBS.