Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who would become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat.
In a surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the churchmen would be elevated to a cardinal’s rank in a ceremony on Nov. 28.
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 selection of Gregory won praise from LGBTQ advocates in the United States, days after Pope Francis grabbed headlines for voicing support for civil unions for gay couples.
Other new cardinals include an Italian who is the long-time papal preacher at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who is a Franciscan friar; the Kigali, Rwanda, Archbishop Antoine Kambanda; the Capiz, Philippines, Archbishop Jose Feurte Advincula, and the Santiago, Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco.
Another Franciscan who was tapped is Friar Mauro Gambetti, in charge of the Sacred Convent in Assisi. The pope, when elected in 2013, chose St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake saint. Earlier this month, the pontiff journeyed to that hill town in Umbria to sign an encyclical, or important church teaching document, about brotherhood.
Gambetti was so surprised, at first he thought the pope was joking when he heard he was named, convent spokesperson the Rev. Enzo Fortunato said. Gambetti quickly pledged to “put himself at the service of humanity at a time so difficult to us all,” including offering compassion to the needy, Fortunato said in reference to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a reflection of the pope’s stress on helping those in need, Francis also named the former director of the Rome Catholic charity, Caritas, the Rev. Enrico Feroci, to be a cardinal.
The prestigious Washington archdiocese traditionally brings elevation to cardinal’s rank, so the appointment of Gregory, 73, last year by the pope had positioned him to be tapped for the honor.