Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as the sixth Archbishop of Washington, submitted his required resignation from his See at the age of 75 three years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that His Holiness, Pope Francis, accepted it, appointing Cardinal Wuerl as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington.
And then the speculation began as to what American prelate could be sent to the nation’s capital. To be honest, most of the speculation was unhealthy and unproductive, making the Pope’s decision almost seem like a political convention’s nominee.
Around two weeks ago, a “leak” stated to a reputable Catholic news source that the 71-year-old Archbishop of Atlanta, the Most Reverend Wilton Gregory, SLD, was to become the Archbishop of Washington, and, not so surprisingly, it came true. Archbishop Gregory is a wise and seasoned bishop, having been appointed to serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago after only ten years of priesthood, then made Ordinary of the Diocese of Belleville, and then becoming the Archbishop of Atlanta.
Archbishop Gregory was also the former president of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops, leading the nation’s bishops through the first wave of the revelation of the horrors of clerical sexual abuse. His own extensive background as a pastor who is consultative, humble, and prayerful is well known. Archbishop Gregory’s education as a Doctor of Sacred Liturgy from Rome and his clear commitment to Catholic education and the promotion of vocations will help him greatly as he settles in to be the bishop of the “Little Rome” that is the Catholic University of America.
The fact that Archbishop Gregory is an African-American, long involved in the promotion of the rights of minorities is an added bonus to his appointment to the See of Washington. Make no mistake – Archbishop Gregory is not appointed to Washington because he is an African-American; no, he is appointed because the Holy Father believes he is the right man for this job.
This week, spare a prayer for Archbishop Wilton Gregory and the people of God entrusted to him in his new Archdiocese. At an age when most people are well into their retirement, he faces a tough road ahead, trying to bring peace, healing, and credibility to a local Church touched by such discord and scandal. May God bless him and keep him holy, giving him a shepherd’s heart.