ROME – On Sunday Pope Francis announced the creation of 13 new cardinals, including American Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, making him the first African-American to get a red hat.
Speaking during his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis confirmed rumors that have been circling for days, announcing a Nov. 28 consistory, which falls on the vigil of the first Sunday of the Church’s liturgical season of Advent.
Gregory, the only American cardinal to be named, is one of the few African-American bishops in the United States and succeeded Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned after allegations in the wake of a 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that he allowed predator priests to receive pension money despite years of accusations of sexual abuse.
In total, Francis named nine cardinals under the age of 80, meaning they are eligible to vote in the next conclave, and four who are over 80, meaning the title is mostly honorary in recognition of their service to the Church.
He gave the red hat to several key allies in the Roman Curia, including Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, the newly appointed Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Bishop Marcello Semeraro, who was recently appointed prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Other appointees include: Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Archbishop Jose Fuerte Advincula of Capiz in the Philippines; Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco of Santiago, Chile, who was tapped to clean up the nation’s massive clerical abuse scandals; Archbishop Cornelius Sim of Brunei; Archbishop Paolo Lojudice of Siena, and who is a former auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rome; and Fra Mauro Gambetti, who oversees the Sacred Convent in Assisi.
By naming Gambetti a cardinal, Francis is sending a clear message about the importance of Assisi and its most famous son, St. Francis, for his papacy. The appointment of Aos Braco shows just how much confidence the pope has in his cleanup efforts.
In terms of non-electors, Pope Francis also named Felipe Arzimendi Esquivel, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas; Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s former observer to the United Nations in Geneva and a longtime ambassador; Father Enrico Feroci, pastor of the Shrine of Holy Mary of Divine Love in Castel di Leva; and Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who for 40 years has served as the preacher for the Papal Household.
After announcing the new cardinals, Francis prayed that they would help him “in my task as bishop of Rome for the benefit of the holy people of God.”