Pope Francis takes steps toward equality, names Wilton Gregory as cardinal

When Pope Francis was elected in 2013, he made history by being the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European pope since the eighth century. Since his election, he has made several positive and progressive changes to the Catholic Church. Just last week he stated that he accepts same-sex unions in the Catholic Church. Now Pope Francis is again making history by appointing the first African-American cardinal in the Catholic Church.

The new cardinal is Wilton Gregory, a former archbishop from Washington, D.C. According to The Guardian, he is one of 13 cardinals appointed by Pope Francis on Sunday, Oct. 25. Last year, he was appointed as the first Black Archbishop of the Washington Archdiocese. 

His appointment comes after the death of George Floyd, and in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. This could be a sign that the Catholic Church is becoming more accepting and more aware of the injustices that Black people face in today’s society. Having an African-American cardinal will hopefully serve as a reminder for Catholics that racial justice should exist and that there are no religious boundaries set by skin tone. 

Pope Francis’s progressive views have led the church in a positive direction, and appointing Gregory as cardinal is no different. Gregory will play a pivotal role in electing a new pope when Pope Francis passes away or resigns. This means that the next pope will most likely share the same progressive views as Pope Francis and the cardinals that he appointed. 

There is hope that with Gregory’s appointment, there will be a renewed interest in the Catholic religion among African-Americans, especially among younger generations. Gregory wants African-Americans to see that they are recognized and loved by the Catholic Church, stating in the New York Times: “It is important for the Black Catholic youth to see someone in leadership that looks like them.”

Gregory fought for the rights of Black Americans, and has supported the LGBTQ+ Catholic community, according to the New York Times. He has condemned the use of tear gas on those who protested when President Trump took a photograph in front of St. John’s Church in June. He has welcomed all men and women to the church, regardless of sexual orientation, believing that Christ would have done the same.

Gregory has a long history with the Catholic Church and in his leadership has made positive changes to some of the church’s policies. Gregory established a lay board to review cases of sexual abuse and how they were handled by the church. He also stated that there will be a “zero-tolerance policy” of priests who abuse children, according to The New York Times.

I believe that Gregory’s appointment is a positive change for the Catholic Church. It is a progressive move forward that will change the way people look at the church as an institution of God. His ideals, along with those of Pope Francis, have shown that the Catholic Church is beginning to be a place of acceptance rather than exclusion.

Not only does his appointment demonstrate change in the Catholic Church, it also shows the shifting views of society. While there is still racial injustice in this world, having an African-American cardinal is a step towards the equality of all races, ethnicities and religions. Cardinal Gregory will represent the Catholic Church with acceptance and love for all of those who enter its doors. That is what religion is all about, and that is what we need as a society in 2020.