Pope Francis named Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta as the new Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
According to The New York Times, the announcement was made in connection with the 51st anniversary of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gregory, 71, who has led the Archdiocese of Atlanta for the last 14 years, became the first African-American bishop to appointed to the position. The historic feat also placed him on the path to become the United States’ first African-American cardinal.
The 71-year-old replaced Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned in October 2018 after being implicated by a Pennsylvania grand jury for helping to cover up sex abuse of 1,000 children by Catholic priests. Wuerl was named the archbishop of Washington in 2006.
Due to the sex clergy crisis sweeping the U.S., the Archdiocese of Washington did not have an official leader for almost six months before Gregory was chosen. The decision fits with Pope Francis’ more progressive vision of the church.
In 2002, Gregory was a prominent part of the U.S. bishops conference, which adopted a “zero tolerance” abuse policy after the first wave of sexual abuse allegations, according to FOX 5 DC.
“He will be good for the country because he knows how to present the church’s message of justice, reconciliation and peace without appearing partisan,” Rev. Thomas Reese, an American church expert, wrote in a Religion News Service column. “He is fully supportive of his mentor’s consistent ethic of life, which is concerned about abortion but does not abandon the child once it is born. His experience as president of the USCCB, where he often had to speak on issues of public policy, will serve him well under the spotlight of the Washington media.”