Pope Francis appoints first Black American cardinal

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Pope Francis has named 13 new cardinals.

FILE - This Sunday, June 2, 2019, file photo shows Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory posed for a portrait following mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington.

The rank of cardinal in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is a very high one, and it is only lower than the honor of being consecrated a Pope.

Francis asked for prayers so the new cardinals "may help me in my ministry as bishop of Rome for the good of all God's faithful holy people".

The prestigious Washington archdiocese traditionally brings elevation to cardinal's rank, so the appointment of Gregory, 73, past year by the pope had positioned him to be tapped for the honor.

In a surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter's Square, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, Francis said the churchmen would be elevated to a cardinal's rank in a ceremony on November 28.

Leading Catholic organizations cheered the choice and noted Pope Francis was sending a clear message "in the midst of our nation's reckoning in systemic racism, as millions assert that Black Lives Matter", said Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic peace and justice organization based in Washington, D.C.

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Gregory also has been a leader in aggressively addressing the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandals and shoring up the church's zero-tolerance policy.

"Since naming cardinals also affects who the next pontiff will be, the pope also shows that he is planning for the future of the church to continue in this affirming posture on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity", the US -based DeBernardo said in a written statement.

Gregory will be eligible to vote in a conclave for a future pope, as he is under 80.

Gregory, who was born and raised in Chicago, was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in May 1973, according to his biography on the Archdiocese of Washington website.

Mr Wilton was picked by Francis to lead the prestigious diocese in the U.S. capital past year.

Advincula, who has been serving as the archbishop of Capiz since 2012, will be the ninth Filipino cardinal.

Peter Aitken is a NY born-and-raised reporter with a focus on national and global news.

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