Pope Francis said he would appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, including the first African-American cardinals.
The Pope announced the appointment of the 13 cardinals of eight nationalities, in a surprise speech from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday.
Wilton Daniel Gregory, 72-year-old Progressive Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them.
The cardinals will be imitated at a ceremony in the Vatican on 28 November.
Cardinals are the highest ranking clergy in the Catholic Church after the Pope.
Their role includes the election of the pope – the head of the church – who is chosen from among them in a secret meeting known as the closed council.
And since four of the new admissions are over the age of 80, they are not allowed to vote under church laws.
The other nine who could vote are from Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei and Mexico.
Vatican experts say the appointment of the new cardinals will strengthen Pope Francis’ influence over the clergy who will one day elect his successor.
Assuming the new cardinals are appointed, Pope Francis will have chosen approximately 60% of the bishops during his tenure, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Who is Archbishop Wilton Gregory?
A priest for 25 years, he became Archbishop of Washington in May 2019. He replaced Cardinal Donald Worrell, who resigned amid criticism of his handling of violence issues.
In the United States, Archbishop Gregory has been a prominent voice in efforts to root out violence within the church. As president of the American Bishops’ Conference, he persuaded church leaders to adopt tougher penalties for aggressors in 2002.
Gregory criticized President Donald Trump for his rhetorical use and his visits to religious sites.
The archbishop denounced Trump’s visit to the shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington, describing it as “bewildering and reprehensible.”
The visit came in June, a day after the president ordered the dispersal of peaceful protesters near the White House.
Gregory said that Saint John Paul II “certainly will not condone the use of tear gas and other means of deterrence to silence, distract or intimidate them in exchange for taking pictures in front of a place of worship and peace.”
Who else was named by Pope Francis?
Among the 13, is the Italian priest Raniero Cantalamisa, 84, who served as a preacher to three papal families.
Another Italian candidate, Marcelo Cimiraro, is a 72-year-old bishop who oversees the church’s beatification of saints.
A key position will also go to the Maltese, Mario Gresh, President of the Synod of Bishops, an influential advisory body to the Pope.
Others include Antoine Campanda, Archbishop of Kigali in Rwanda, Jose Fuerte Advincula, Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines, and Celestino Os Bracko, Archbishop of Santiago in Chile.