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Wilton Daniel Gregory

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Wilton Daniel Gregory
Archbishop of Washington
Cardinal Gregory in 2024
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
AppointedApril 4, 2019
InstalledMay 21, 2019
PredecessorDonald William Wuerl
Other post(s)Apostolic Administrator of Saint Thomas (2020-2021)
Cardinal-Priest of Immacolata Concezione di Maria a Grottarossa (2020-)
OrdinationMay 9, 1973
by John Cody
ConsecrationDecember 13, 1983
by Joseph Bernardin
Created cardinalNovember 28, 2020
by Pope Francis
Personal details
Wilton Daniel Gregory

(1947-12-07) December 7, 1947 (age 76)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DenominationCatholic (Latin Church)
ResidenceWashington, D.C., US
ParentsEthel Duncan
Wilton Gregory, Sr.
Previous post(s)
Alma mater
MottoWe are the Lord's
Coat of armsWilton Daniel Gregory's coat of arms
Styles of
Wilton Daniel Gregory
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Wilton Daniel Gregory (born December 7, 1947) is an American prelate of the Catholic Church who has been serving as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington since 2019. Pope Francis elevated him to the rank of cardinal on November 28, 2020. He is the first African-American cardinal.[1]

Gregory previously served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Illinois from 1983 to 1994; as bishop of the Diocese of Belleville in Illinois, from 1994 to 2004; and as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta in Georgia from 2005 to 2019. He was the first Black president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He served as president from 2001 to 2004, when the USCCB issued the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in response to the sexual abuse scandal in the US Catholic church.

Early life and education[edit]

Wilton Gregory was born on December 7, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, to Ethel (née Duncan) and Wilton Gregory.[2] One of three children, he has two sisters: Elaine and Claudia.[3] Gregory's parents divorced when he was young, and his grandmother, Etta Mae Duncan, subsequently moved in with the family at their home on the South Side.[4] In 1958, he was enrolled at St. Carthage Grammar School, where he decided to become a priest even before he converted to Catholicism.[3] He was baptized and received his First Communion in 1959, and was confirmed by Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger later that year.[3]

After graduating from St. Carthage in 1961, Gregory attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary South and Niles College in Chicago, and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.[2]

Ordination and ministry[edit]

At the age of 25, Gregory was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 9, 1973.[5][6] For the next three years he served as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview. In 1976, Gregory began graduate studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome.[6] He completed his Doctor of Sacred Liturgy (SLD) in 1980.

After returning to Illinois, Gregory taught as a professor of liturgy at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary and served as a master of ceremonies under Cardinals Cody and Bernardin.[citation needed]

Episcopal ministry[edit]

Auxiliary bishop of Chicago[edit]

On October 31, 1983, Gregory was appointed by Pope John Paul II as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago and titular bishop of Oliva.[7] Gregory received his episcopal consecration on December 13, 1983, from Bernardin, with Bishops Alfred Abramowicz and Nevin Hayes serving as co-consecrators.

Bishop of Belleville[edit]

On December 29, 1993, John Paul II appointed Gregory as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Belleville;[8] he was installed on February 10, 1994.

From 2001 to 2004, Gregory served as USCCB president, just the second African-American to head an episcopal conference.[9] He had been vice president from 1998 to 2001[10] and chair of several committees. During his presidency, the USCCB issued the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" in response to Catholic sex abuse cases. Gregory was also a board member at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In 2002, in recognition of his handling of the sex abuse scandal with repeated apologies and the laicization of priests, Gregory was chosen as Time Magazine's Person of the Week.[11] In 2003, Gregory stated that the US Supreme Court decision on sodomy laws, Lawrence v. Texas, was to be deplored.[12] Then in October 2020, Gregory was interviewed in an Associated Press article which noted "Gregory has drawn notice for his relatively inclusive approach for LGBT Catholics, and said it was essential that they be treated with respect."[13]

Archbishop of Atlanta[edit]

Coat of arms as Archbishop of Atlanta

John Paul II named Gregory as the seventh archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta on December 9, 2004.[14] His installation took place on January 17, 2005.[15] He was the third African-American archbishop in the US; the first two, Eugene A. Marino and James P. Lyke, were also archbishops of Atlanta.[16]

Gregory has been active in the church in advocating for the prevention of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and religious, and for implementing policies to protect the faithful from sexual abuse.[4] He has been one of the leading bishops in the United States regarding this endeavor.[4]Gregory wrote a bi-weekly column for the Roman Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, The Georgia Bulletin entitled "What I have seen and heard".[17] In it, he regularly shared reflections about his faith, work, and experiences.[17]

Gregory spoke out against the 2014 Safe Carry Protection Act, passed by the Georgia General Assembly. [18][19][20] The law permits licensed gun owners to carry guns into many public and private places, including churches, school property, bars, nightclubs, libraries, and some government buildings in Georgia.[19][21][22] The law was supported by the Georgia Baptist Convention,[21] but opposed by Catholic and Episcopalian church leaders.[21][20] Gregory stated that guns would not be allowed in Roman Catholic churches in Georgia, except for those military and civil service personnel who are required to have them.[20][18][21] He stated that carrying guns in churches places vulnerable individuals, such as children, those who are disabled, and the elderly, at risk.[18][21] He says it is against Jesus' teachings of peace, and wrote,

"Rather than make guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal."[18][21][23]

In 2014, Gregory was criticized[24] after the archdiocese used $2.2 million from a bequest to build a new archbishop's residence in the Buckhead section of Atlanta on property donated to the church. The residence was designed to also serve as a banquet and conference facility.[25][a] In March and April 2014, Gregory apologized to parishioners of the archdiocese, saying that he had "failed to consider the impact on the families throughout the Archdiocese who, though struggling to pay their mortgages, utilities, tuition and other bills, faithfully respond year after year to my pleas to assist with funding our ministries and services". Gregory announced that the archdiocese would sell the residence, although he had moved into it only three months earlier.[25][30][31] In November 2014, the archdiocese sold the Buckhead property for $2.6 million, and Gregory moved into a more modest home, purchased for $440,000, in Smyrna, Georgia.[32]

At a 2017 conference at Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts, Gregory called Pope Francis's 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia as "document that recognizes the real and serious problems and challenges facing families today, but at the same time it is a proclamation of hope through the mercy and grace of God." Gregory said that Francis "challenges the church and its pastors to move beyond thinking that everything is black and white, so that we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth."[33]

In 2018, a group of Catholics started a petition urging Gregory to remove "pro-LGBT" Monsignor Henry Gracz of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta from his position as a spiritual advisor to victims of sexual abuse for allegedly contravening Church teaching. Gregory declined to do so, saying, "Msgr. Gracz is following the admonition of Pope Francis to accompany people on the periphery of society. His priestly heart is not closed to those who find themselves misunderstood or rejected."[34]

Archbishop of Washington[edit]

On April 4, 2019, Pope Francis named Gregory as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington.[35][36] He was installed on May 21, 2019.[37] The archdiocese comprises 139 parishes in the District of Columbia and the Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's, and Saint Mary's.[38]

In an interview on August 1, 2019, Gregory criticized rhetoric from President Donald Trump, saying, "I fear that recent public comments by our president and others and the responses they have generated, have deepened divisions and diminished our national life"; he called for an "end" to "the growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions."[39]

When Trump visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington on June 2, 2020, to promote an executive order on religious freedom, one day after the Donald Trump photo op at St. John's Church in Washington, Gregory condemned the visit, saying,

"I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree… Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."[40][41][42][43][44]

It was subsequently reported that the White House had invited Gregory to the event at the National Shrine before it had been publicly announced, and that Gregory had written that he must "unfortunately" decline the "kind invitation," citing a prior commitment.[45]

Archbishop Gregory greets parishioners after a Mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington, D.C.

On September 18, 2020, Pope Francis appointed Gregory to serve as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Saint Thomas, a suffragan diocese of Washington.[46]

After the November 2020 US presidential election of Vice President Joe Biden as president, Gregory emphasized the need to "engage and dialogue" with the new administration. He noted a "clear divergence of opinions" on abortion rights, but a closer alignment of views on "respect for the dignity of our immigrant community"; an end to capital punishment"; and "the pursuit of racial and social justice."[47] Gregory said he was "not going to veer" from the long-established practice of allowing Biden to receive communion.[48] When asked why he would not deny communion to a president-elect who supports abortion rights, Gregory said, "I don't want to go to the table with a gun on the table first."[49] Gregory would deliver the invocation at the ceremony memorializing victims of the coronavirus pandemic prior to Biden's inauguration.

When asked in 2019 by a transgender person about whether there was a place for them in the Catholic Church, Gregory responded:

"You belong to the heart of this Church. And there is nothing that you may do, may say, that will ever rip you from the heart of this Church. There is a lot that has been said to you, about you, behind your back, that is painful and is sinful. And so that’s why I mentioned my conversations with Fortunate Families. We have to find a way to talk to one another. And to talk to one another, not just from one perspective, but to talk and to listen to one another. I think that’s the way that Jesus ministered. He engaged people, he took them where they were at, and He invited them to go deeper, closer to God. So if you’re asking me where do you fit? You fit in the family."[50]

Like his predecessors, as archbishop of Washington, Gregory serves as the chancellor of Catholic University of America.

Elevation to cardinal[edit]

Archbishop Gregory celebrates Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception after being installed as the Archbishop of Washington on May 21, 2019

On October 25, 2020, Pope Francis announced he would raise Gregory to the rank of cardinal at the consistory of November 28, 2020.[51][52] At that consistory, Francis created him a cardinal-priest, with the titular church of Immacolata Concezione di Maria a Grottarossa.[53] Gregory became the first Black cardinal from the United States,[54] the highest-ranking African-American Catholic ever.[55] On December 16, 2020, he was named a member of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.[56]

Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite[edit]

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum widened the availability of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Pope Francis promulgated Traditionis custodes in 2021, restricting its availability once more. On July 22, 2022, Gregory promulgated liturgical norms in accordance with the new document.[57] The restrictions, scheduled to take effect on September 21, caused consternation and division among some Catholics in the archdiocese because some affected parishes have been reliant on parishioners who are attached to this form of the liturgy.[58][59]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Atlanta Archdiocese had received a $15 million bequest[26] from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, a nephew of Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell.[27][28][29]


  1. ^ Horowitz, Jason (October 25, 2020). "Pope Francis Appoints First African-American Cardinal". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  3. ^ a b c Castranio, Mary Anne (December 16, 2004). "New Archbishop Will 'Come To Know The People'". The Georgia Bulletin. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Bennett Kinnon, Joy (December 1, 2002). "Bishop Gregory: Powerful Black Bishop Helps Catholic Church Confront Sexual Abuse Problems and a New World". Ebony.
  5. ^ Chicago Catholic Staff, (May 17, 2023). "Archdiocesan priests celebrate jubilee milestones", Chicage Catholic. Retrieved August 26, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Wilton Cardinal Gregory Archdiocese of Washington. 2021. Retrieved February 8, 2021
  7. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. LXXV. 1983. p. 1053. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  8. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. LXXXVI. 1994. p. 110. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  9. ^ "Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, SLD : African American Catholic Bishops". August 8, 2003. Archived from the original on August 8, 2003.
  10. ^ "Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory". Archived from the original on March 16, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  11. ^ Reaves, Jessica, "Person of the Week: Bishop Wilton Gregory", Time, April 25, 2002.
  12. ^ "Conference President Criticizes Supreme Court Decision | USCCB". www.usccb.org. June 23, 2003. Retrieved January 10, 2023. Respect for the purpose of human sexuality and the family needs to be reaffirmed in our society; and anything which reduces respect for them—such as yesterday's Supreme Court decision—is to be deplored.
  13. ^ Social issues a priority for cardinal-to-be Wilton Gregory David Crary. Associated Press. October 30, 2020. Retrieved January 10, 2023
  14. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 09.12.2004" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. December 9, 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  15. ^ "Gregory installed as archbishop of Atlanta". WDUN. Associated Press. January 17, 2005. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  16. ^ The Drum: The Beat of Black Catholic Chicago. Volume 3. Issue 2. pg. 4. February 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2021
  17. ^ a b "What I Have Seen and Heard" Archived May 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, column home page, The Georgia Bulletin.
  18. ^ a b c d Commentary: Decrying the state's new gun law, The Georgia Bulletin, Smyrna, Georgia: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, April 30, 2014, Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches, CNN.com, Atlanta, Georgia: Cable News Network/Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., April 23, 2014, Sayers, D.M. & McLaughlin, E.C.
  20. ^ a b c Nichole Golden, Atlanta archbishop to restrict weapons in Catholic institutions, National Catholic Reporter (April 30, 2014).
  21. ^ a b c d e f Georgia’s sweeping gun law sparks religious backlash, Time.com, May 5, 2014, Sanburn, J., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  22. ^ Georgia governor signs 'unprecedented' gun rights bill, The Huffington Post.com, The Huffington Post.com, LLC, April 23, 2014, Lavender, P., Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  23. ^ Gregory, Wilton D. (May 1, 2014). Viewpoints: What I have seen and heard: Decrying the state's new gun law. The Georgia Bulletin. Smyrna, Georgia: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
  24. ^ "Atlanta archbishop apologizes for posh residence". AP NEWS. April 2014. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  25. ^ a b Gregory, W.D. (March 31, 2014), "Commentary: The archbishop responds", The Georgia Bulletin, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, retrieved May 26, 2014
  26. ^ "Distribution of $15 million Joseph Mitchell bequest", The Georgia Bulletin, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, April 3, 2014, retrieved May 26, 2014
  27. ^ Margaret Mitchell heir leaves estate to Archdiocese of Atlanta Archived May 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Smyrna, Georgia: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, August 16, 2012, Chivers, P., Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  28. ^ "Mitchell heir leaves millions, literary rights to Atlanta Archdiocese", Washington, D.C.: Catholic News Service, August 17, 2012, Keiser, G., Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  29. ^ Poole, S. (August 16, 2012). "Margaret Mitchell's nephew leaves estate to Atlanta Archdiocese". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  30. ^ "Atlanta archbishop apologizes over $2.2M mansion". USA Today. April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  31. ^ "Archbishop Says He Plans to Sell $2 Million Home". New York Times. Associated Press. April 5, 2014. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  32. ^ Murphy, Adam (March 11, 2015). "Atlanta's Archbishop sells Buckhead mansion, moves to Smyrna". WGCL-TV. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  33. ^ O'Loughlin, Michael J. (October 6, 2017). "Listen to families on 'Amoris Laetitia,' bishops and theologians say". America Magazine. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  34. ^ Poole, Shelia M.; Branch, Ben (September 4, 2018). "Catholic petitioners take offense to Atlanta pro-LGBTQ pastor's role". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  35. ^ "Resignations and Appointments" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  36. ^ "Pope Francis Names Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as New Archbishop of Washington". Archdiocese of Washington. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  37. ^ Rodrigo, Chris Mills (May 21, 2019). "DC archdiocese installs first African-American archbishop". The Hill. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  38. ^ Coleen Grablick, D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory Named Cardinal By Pope Francis, NPR (October 26, 2020).
  39. ^ "Gregory: Offensive speech, actions a 'growing plague' that 'must end'". Crux. August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 2, 2019.[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein (June 2, 2020). "Catholic Archbishop of Washington Slams Trump's Visit". The Washington Post.
  41. ^ Philpott, Daniel (June 9, 2020). "Ignore the optics. Trump's executive order could jump-start the cause of global religious freedom". America. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
  42. ^ "Archbishop Wilton Gregory Issues Statement on Planned Presidential Visit". Archdiocese of Washington. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  43. ^ Jackson, David; Collins, Michael; Wu, Nicholas (June 2, 2020). "Washington archbishop denounces Trump visit to Catholic shrine as 'baffling' and 'reprehensible'". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  44. ^ "George Floyd death: Archbishop attacks Trump as US unrest continues". BBC News. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  45. ^ "Archbishop Gregory Invited to JPII Shrine Trump Event Days Before Public Statement". National Catholic Register. June 8, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  46. ^ Catholic News Agency (September 18, 2020). "Pope accepts resignation of Bishop Bevard of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands". Crux. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  47. ^ Gregory, Wilton (November 25, 2020). "D.C. cardinal says Church, Biden have common ground on immigration, race relations". Crux (Interview). Interviewed by Elise Ann Allen. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  48. ^ Wooden, Cindy (November 24, 2020). "In Washington, with new president, cardinal-designate hopes for dialogue". Catholic Review. Catholic News Service. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  49. ^ Jenkins, Jack (December 11, 2020). "DC's Wilton Gregory, first African American cardinal, on Joe Biden, race and COVID-19". Religion News Service. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  50. ^ Martin, James (August 30, 2019). "What does a church open to L.G.B.T. Catholics look like?". America Magazine. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  51. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (October 25, 2020). "Pope Francis names 13 new cardinals, including Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington D.C." America. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  52. ^ Khalil, Ashraf (October 25, 2020). "Pope appoints America's first African American cardinal, D.C.'s Wilton Gregory". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  53. ^ "Concistoro Ordinario Pubblico: Assegnazione dei Titoli, 28.11.2020". Holy See Press Office (in Italian). November 28, 2020. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  54. ^ Murray, Kelly (October 25, 2020). "Pope Francis appoints America's first Black cardinal, Wilton Gregory". CNN. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  55. ^ Burke, Daniel; Gallagher, Delia (November 28, 2020). "This archbishop has become the first African American cardinal in Catholic history". CNN. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  56. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 16.12.2020" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. December 16, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  57. ^ "Cardinal Gregory limits celebration of the Latin Mass to 3 D.C. churches". America Magazine. July 25, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  58. ^ "Cardinal Gregory's TLM Restrictions Illustrate Why Traditionis Custodes Must Be Reversed". Crisis Magazine. July 27, 2022. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  59. ^ "Catholics in D.C. mourn loss of Latin Mass after decree bans practice". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  60. ^ a b "Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory Archbishop-designate of Washington" (PDF). Archdiocese of Washington. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  61. ^ Sippell, Margeaux (May 21, 2018). "Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory urges BC graduates to heed power of words". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 25, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  62. ^ "Past Winners of the Great Preacher Award". Aquinas Institute of Theology. Archived from the original on April 26, 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Belleville
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Atlanta
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Washington
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of Immacolata Concezione di Maria a Grottarossa