Pope Francis bestowed the rank on the 72-year-old Gregory along with 10 other new cardinals at St. Peter’s Basilica, in a ceremony marked by face masks and chairs 6 feet apart, The Washington Post reported.
Gregory kept his face mask on when he kneeled for Francis to put on his red hat; most of the others took theirs off. The pope kept with his practice of not wearing a mask.
After the ceremony, Gregory talked about the significance — and timing — of his appointment.
“Among the people that have congratulated me and wished me well, friends and colleagues, I’ve heard this: It’s about time,” he said during a video conference. “But it is also an important recognition that the African American, the Black Catholic community, is an important component within the larger, universal church.”
Gregory spoke of being a “voice for the African American community in the Pope’s ear.” His new rank gives him a higher profile and more influence — at a time when racial tensions are high in the US, particularly over police killings of Black men.
Of the Church’s 229 cardinals, Francis has appointed 73 who are under 80. A good number of Francis’ appointees are from South America and Africa, recognition that the Church’s power base has shifted from Europe.