VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has named Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory as the new archbishop of Washington D.C., choosing a moderate, and the first African-American, to lead the archdiocese that has become the epicenter of the clergy sex abuse crisis in the U.S.
The 71-year-old Gregory replaces Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned last year after being implicated in covering up abuse by a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Gregory headed the U.S. bishops conference when it adopted a “zero-tolerance” abuse policy in 2002 to respond to the first wave of the scandal. He has run the Atlanta archdiocese since 2005 and is seen as a pastor very much in line with Francis’ progressive vision of the church.
The Vatican on Thursday announced the appointment, which was first reported by Catholic News Agency.
Gregory converted to Catholicism as a student in a Chicago grade school, and was ordained a priest in Chicago by Cardinal John Cody. He served as an auxiliary bishop in his home diocese under Cardinal Joseph Bernardin from 1983 until 1994, according to Catholic News Agency. He became the Bishop of Belleville, Illinois where he stayed for ten years before moving to Atlanta in 2004.
He’s known to have maintain ties with Catholic leadership in Chicago, and the Archdiocese in Chicago congratulated him on the move.
“With great pride, the Church in Chicago rejoices in the appointment of our native son, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, as the seventh Archbishop of Washington,” The Archdiocese said in a statement. “Known to us, and especially his brother priests in this local Church, as a proven pastor and devoted friend, we offer Archbishop Gregory our heartfelt congratulations and warmest best wishes. We look forward to his continuing service to the People of God as he begins his new ministry in our nation’s capital”