Former Belleville Bishop becomes first African-American Cardinal from US

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ST. LOUIS – History was made this weekend when former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory, 72, became the first African-American Cardinal from the United States.

Pope Francis elevated 13 new members to the College of Cardinals, the highest-ranking clergy in the Roman Catholic Church.

The new members included Chicago native Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C.

During the event, the Cardinals took their places while socially distancing and wearing masks at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Because of pandemic-related travel issues, two of the 13 new Cardinals did not attend the event in-person but followed the proceedings remotely.

“This is an honor that I am experiencing, but it comes with many responsibilities,” Gregory said.

As a Cardinal, Gregory will be one of the pope’s closest advisers and one of only 120 or so men who will elect the next pontiff.

Before Pope Francis chose Gregory as Archbishop of Washington last year, he also served as a bishop in Belleville, Ill., and Atlanta.

“My responsibility must be to energize, to inspire, to invite others to take up the responsibilities that they have,” Gregory said. “And I’m very glad to see that so many people are doing it, especially young people.”

Experts say the new class of Cardinals is the most diverse yet. Pope Francis wants the global church to reflect the people it serves.

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