Former Belleville bishop named the first African-American cardinal

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WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 21: New Archbishop of Washington, Wilton D. Gregory, (C) participates in his Installation mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, on May 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. Archbishop Gregory, is the former Archbishop of Atlanta and replaces former Archbishop of Washington Donald Cardinal Wuerl who resigned last year. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

BELLEVILLE, Ill. – A former Belleville bishop has been named the first African-American first cardinal

Pope Francis has named Washington DC Archbishop Wilton Gregory alongside 12 others who will now wear the coveted red cap.

Gregory became the 7th bishop of Belleville in 1994.

In a surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the churchmen would be elevated to a cardinal’s rank in a ceremony on Nov. 28.

Other new cardinals include an Italian who is the long-time papal preacher at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan friar; the Kigali, Rwanda, Archbishop Antoine Kambanda; the Capiz, Philippines, Archbishop Jose Feurte Advincula, and the Santiago, Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco.

Another Franciscan who was tapped is Friar Mauro Gambetti, in charge of the Sacred Convent in Assisi. The pope, when elected in 2013, chose St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake saint. Earlier this month, the pontiff journeyed to that hill town in Umbria to sign an encyclical, or important church teaching document, about brotherhood.

In a reflection of the pope’s stress on helping those in need, Francis also named the former director of the Rome Catholic charity, Caritas, the Rev. Enrico Feroci, to be a cardinal.

Wilton, 73, was picked by Francis to lead the prestigious diocese in the U.S. capital last year. The prelate has his pulse on factions in the U.S. Catholic Church, which has both strong conservative and liberal veins since he served three times as the head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

Nine of the new cardinals are younger than 80, and thus eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave. Some cardinals head powerful Vatican offices, and pontiffs frequently turn to cardinals for advice.

No details were immediately given by the Vatican about the concistory, as the formal ceremony to make the churchmen cardinals is known, especially in view of travel restrictions involving many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As he has in other groups of cardinals he tapped in his papacy, Francis in this selection reflected the global nature of the Catholic Church and his flock of 1.2 billion Catholics.

Others named cardinals include a Maltese prelate, Monsignor Mario Grech; Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, an Italian serving as prefect of the Vatican office which runs the saint-making process; Bishop Cornelius Sim, a Brunei native who serves as apostolic vicar of Brunei; the Italian archbishop of Siena and nearby towns in Tuscany, Augusto Lojudice; the retired bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Monsignor Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel; and an Italian former Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi.

Churchmen over 80 who are named cardinals are chosen to honor their life of service to the church. Those in this batch too old to vote in a conclave are Cantalamessa, Tomasi, Feroci and Arizmendi Esquivel.

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