(The following summaries of Consistories when Washington archbishops became cardinals are compiled from past Catholic Standard articles and from Catholic News Service reporting.)

Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, 1967

Nearly 20 years after the Archdiocese of Washington was formally separated from Baltimore, the first resident archbishop of the nation’s capital was elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Archbishop Patrick Aloysius O’Boyle, who was installed as the first resident archbishop of Washington in 1948, became a cardinal on June 28, 1967. The Consistory took place five years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council and four years into the reign of Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978 and was canonized in 2018.

During ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Paul VI presented red birettas to 24 of 27 new cardinals chosen that year. Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia and Cardinal John Cody of Chicago were among the group of new cardinals in 1967.

Later that week, Cardinal O’Boyle took possession of his titular church, St. Nicholas in Prison, built in 1038 in honor of St. Nicholas of Myra, who is believed to be the prototype of Santa Claus. About 150 pilgrims from Washington attended the Consistory, as well as some of Cardinal O’Boyle’s relatives from his native Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Cardinal O’Boyle, who served as archbishop of Washington from 1948 until he retired in 1973, was known for his pioneering work to integrate local Catholic schools and parishes several years before the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing segregated educational facilities.

In recognition of his lifelong efforts in support of civil rights, then-Archbishop O’Boyle gave the invocation at the 1963 March on Washington. He led the archdiocese through a period of rapid growth that included the establishment of 50 new parishes. He is also remembered for his steadfast defense of Church teaching on marriage and the family. Known as the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Founding Father,” Cardinal O’Boyle died in 1987 at the age of 91. – written by Maureen Boyle

Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, 1976

The year was 1976 and the United States was just a few weeks away from celebrating its bicentennial when Washington Archbishop William Wakefield Baum was elevated to the centuries-old Sacred College of Cardinals by Pope Paul VI.

Cardinal Baum, who was then 49 years old, was the only North American named in the 1976 Consistory. Of the other 19 prelates, there were nine Europeans, four Africans, three Asians, two Latin Americans and one New Zealander.

Joining him were 200 pilgrims from Washington, and from Kansas City where he had served as a priest, and from Springfield, Missouri, where he had earlier served as a bishop. Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, Cardinal Baum’s predecessor as archbishop of Washington, was also in attendance. Members of Cardinal Baum’s family from his native Texas also made the trip.

During the Consistory, the pope announced to Cardinal Baum that he had been named the titular bishop of San Croce al Flaminio Church in Rome, which was built in 1913.

Cardinal Baum went on to serve as archbishop of Washington another four years. The highlight of Cardinal Baum’s time in Washington was hosting Pope St. John Paul II’s historic visit in 1979, the first papal visit to the nation’s capital.

The following year in 1980, Cardinal Baum was named prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican. Ten years later, Cardinal Baum was appointed major penitentiary, heading the Vatican office that deals with matters of conscience involving the sacraments. In the early 1990s, he served on a commission that drafted the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published in 1994.

In 2001, Cardinal Baum retired. Following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Cardinal Baum participated in the papal Conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, just as he had participated in the 1978 Conclaves that elected Pope John Paul I and then Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Baum, the longest serving U.S. cardinal in history, died July 23, 2015 at the age of 88. – written by Maureen Boyle

Cardinal James Aloysius Hickey, 1988

Cardinal James Aloysius Hickey’s elevation to the College of Cardinals on June 28, 1988 marked a special homecoming for the archbishop of Washington, who had served as the rector of the North American College in Rome from 1969 to 1974.

One of 24 cardinals installed that year by Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Hickey, who was 67, knelt before the pontiff and received his red biretta in a ceremony held in the Vatican’s cavernous Paul VI Hall. Pope St. John Paul II died in 2005 and was canonized in 2014.

About 250 pilgrims from Washington, and from Saginaw, Michigan, and Cleveland, where he had earlier served as a bishop, joined Cardinal Hickey at the Consistory.

Cardinal Hickey, who was named the archbishop of Washington in 1980, and then-Detroit Cardinal Edmund Szoka were the only American cardinals among the new group. Other cardinals came from countries including Lithuania, Hungary, Mozambique, India, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Cameroon, Hong Kong and Mauritius. Earlier in the century, the College of Cardinals consisted mostly of Italian prelates.

At the Consistory, Pope John Paul II announced that Cardinal Hickey’s titular church would be St. Mary, Mother of the Redeemer in Rome.

Cardinal Hickey retired as archbishop of Washington in 2000 after leading a large archdiocesan Eucharistic convocation to mark the Great Jubilee Year. During his leadership in Washington, he also established the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life and in 1986 implemented one of the first diocesan child protection policies in the nation. He oversaw expansion of social service programs serving those in need, a renewal of Catholic elementary schools in the District of Columbia, and the establishment of 12 new parishes and four pastoral missions to serve the growing and increasingly diverse archdiocese. He died at the age of 84 on Oct. 24, 2004. – written by Maureen Boyle

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 2001

In St. Peter’s Square in Rome on Feb. 21, 2001, Pope John Paul II created the first new cardinals of the new millennium. That Consistory for 44 new cardinals – including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then the new archbishop of Washington – represented the largest and most international class of cardinals up to that point in the Catholic Church’s history, with the new members of the College of Cardinals coming from 27 countries and five continents.

The new cardinals included two other Americans: Cardinal Edward Egan, then the archbishop of New York, and Cardinal Avery Dulles, the eminent Jesuit theologian who taught for many years at The Catholic University of America in Washington and Fordham University in New York. Cardinal Dulles, then 82, was the first American to be named a cardinal without first being a bishop.

The new cardinals in 2001 also included Vietnamese Cardinal Francois Nguyen Van Thuan, who spent 13 years in prison in communist Vietnam, nine of them in solitary confinement. He wore a pectoral cross and chain that he had fashioned in prison out of wood and electrical wire, which he hid from guards in a bar of soap.

Then-Cardinal McCarrick, who was 70, was named a cardinal less than three weeks after being installed as Washington’s new archbishop in early 2001. That fall, he led the Archdiocese of Washington in prayer and mourning after the Sept.11 terrorist attacks on the United States. He retired as Washington’s archbishop in 2006 after serving in that role for five years. In his years as archbishop of Washington, he opened the Redemptoris Mater Seminary for diocesan missionary priests, advocated for expanding educational opportunities for children from low-income families and launched a capital campaign to provide an endowment for archdiocesan outreach and ministries.

McCarrick resigned from the office of cardinal in July 2018 upon his suspension from public ministry and withdrawal from public life for prayer and penance, following allegations of misconduct during his time prior to becoming archbishop of Washington. McCarrick was dismissed from the priesthood in February 2019 at the conclusion of a canonical adjudication process by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that investigated allegations of abuse of minors and sexual misconduct with adults. 

Before being appointed archbishop of Washington, he served in New York as a priest and auxiliary bishop, and in New Jersey as bishop of Metuchen and as archbishop of Newark. In November 2020, the Vatican issued a report on how Church officials failed to investigate thoroughly and act on allegations about McCarrick before he was named the archbishop of Washington and then a cardinal. McCarrick turned 90 in July 2020. – written by Mark Zimmermann


Cardinal Donald Wuerl, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI created 24 new cardinals on Nov. 20, 2010, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, and called them to be strong in spreading and defending the faith and promoting peace and tranquility within the Church.

Cardinal Wuerl and another prelate from the United States, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who then served as prefect of the Vatican’s supreme court, joined other new cardinals from 13 countries in formally professing their Catholic faith and fidelity to the pope.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that Cardinal Wuerl’s titular church in Rome was St. Peter in Chains, the church famous for having Michelangelo’s statue of Moses and also chains that are believed to have bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned.

Cardinal Wuerl served as the sixth archbishop of Washington from 2006 until his retirement in 2018. As archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wuerl worked to expand educational opportunities for children and services to those in need, encouraged efforts to share the faith through the New Evangelization, championed the cause of religious freedom, led an effort to plan the Church’s future outreach, and utilized traditional and new media to spread the Gospel. He welcomed two popes to the nation’s capital, Pope Benedict XVI in April 2008 and Pope Francis in September 2015, and marked the 75th anniversary of the archdiocese by convoking its first-ever Archdiocesan Synod in 2014, which charted a blueprint for the local Church’s future outreach. He established the Saint John Paul II Seminary in 2011, the first seminary in the United States named after that saint. Nationally known as a teacher of the faith, Cardinal Wuerl is the author of numerous articles and books and pastoral letters.

Now retired, Cardinal Wuerl turned 80 on Nov. 12, 2020, meaning he is no longer eligible to vote for a new pope in a Conclave. Cardinal Wuerl participated in the 2013 Conclave that elected Pope Francis. – account of 2010 Consistory excerpted from Catholic News Service article by Cindy Wooden, with biographical information from Archdiocese of Washington’s website

Pope Francis places the red biretta on new Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington during a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2020. (CNS photo/Fabio Frustaci, Reuters pool)

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, 2020

One by one 11 senior churchmen, including two U.S. citizens -- Cardinals Wilton D. Gregory of Washington and Silvano M. Tomasi, a former Vatican diplomat -- knelt before Pope Francis on Nov. 28, 2020 to receive their red hats, a cardinal's ring and a scroll formally declaring their new status and assigning them a “titular” church in Rome.

But with the Consistory Nov. 28 occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis actually created 13 new cardinals.

Cardinals Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, Philippines, and Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, did not attend the Consistory because of COVID-19 travel restrictions; however, they are officially cardinals and will receive their birettas and rings at a later date, the Vatican said.

The pandemic also meant the gathering was unusually small; each cardinal was accompanied by a priest-secretary and could invite a handful of guests, so there were only about 100 people in the congregation at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The elevation of Cardinal Gregory to the College of Cardinals made history, as he became the first African American cardinal from the United States.

Cardinal Gregory’s titular church is Immaculate Conception parish on the ancient Via Flaminia in the Grottarossa neighborhood of northern Rome. The church was built in 1935.

The new cardinals came from eight countries: Italy, Malta, the United States, Brunei, the Philippines, Mexico, Rwanda and Chile.

Cardinal Gregory, like the other new cardinals coming from outside Europe, was tested for COVID-19 before flying to Rome and again upon arrival. Even after testing negative, he and the others were required to quarantine for 10 days and were tested again immediately before the Consistory. Cardinal Gregory stayed at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, and his meals were left outside his door.

The new cardinals wore face masks and sat at social distances as coronavirus safety precautions during the Consistory, and Cardinal Gregory wore his mask as Pope Francis placed the red biretta on his head during the ceremony.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Cardinal Gregory said he regretted that “my two sisters are not here, and the many people I know and love from Chicago and Belleville (Illinois) and Atlanta and Washington,” who were watching the livestream instead. In a column for the Catholic Standard, Washington’s new cardinal expressed regret that “I will not be able to share this Roman moment with many of the people that I love dearly,” because “the travel difficulties, the health concerns and the local restrictions are not conducive to European travels. But I assure you that I will carry all of you deep within my heart during the time of the Consistory and during the Mass with the Holy Father.”

With the November 2020 consistory, the College of Cardinals now has 229 members, 128 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. Pope Francis has given the red hat to 57% of electors.

With Cardinals Gregory and Tomasi, who was born in Italy but is a U.S. citizen, the number of U.S. cardinals rose to 16; nine of them are cardinal electors.

According to Vatican News, after the Consistory, Pope Francis and the 11 new cardinals present in Rome went to visit Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the chapel of "Mater Ecclesiae" (Latin for ”Mother of the Church”) Monastery. The cardinals were presented individually to the pope emeritus who expressed his delight for their visit and, after the singing of the Salve Regina, imparted his blessing to them.

Cardinal Gregory was installed as the archbishop of Washington in May 2019. A native of Chicago, he was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1973 and ordained as an auxiliary bishop there in 1983. From 1994 until 2004, Bishop Gregory served as the bishop of Belleville, Illinois. Then-Bishop Gregory was elected as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, and the next year, he led the nation’s bishops in confronting the crisis of sex abuse by Catholic clergy, and under his leadership, the U.S. bishops adopted and implemented the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Then-Archbishop Gregory was installed as the archbishop of Atlanta in 2005 and led that archdiocese through a period of growth and implemented an innovative action plan offering steps that individual Catholics, parishes and the diocese could take to protect the environment. 

As the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Gregory confronted the abuse crisis that affected that archdiocese in a personal way following the defrocking of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and pledged that he would work to foster healing and rebuild trust there. Two months after Archbishop Gregory was installed as Washington’s archbishop, the archdiocese in July 2019 revised its child protection policy with an expanded scope and a new title, the Child Protection and Save Environment Policy, to emphasize the importance  of ensuring safe environments for people of all ages, protecting children from sexual abuse and adults from sexual harassment or abuses of power.

As archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Gregory has spoken out strongly about the “virus of racism” affecting the nation as it also was experiencing the coronavirus pandemic, and praised the peaceful nationwide protests for racial justice following the killing of unarmed men and women of color by police. At a Mass for Peace and Justice celebrated at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in August 2020 to mark the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Archbishop Gregory announced the Archdiocese of Washington’s new initiative, “Made in God’s Image: Pray and Work to End the Sin of Racism,” which will include a wide range of pastoral activities and outreach including prayer, listening sessions, faith formation opportunities and social justice work.

In the months since COVID-19  swept through the country, Cardinal Gregory has encouraged his flock in the Archdiocese of Washington to remember that Christ is always with them. Strict safety measures were put into effect as public Masses at area Catholic churches resumed in May and after Catholic schools reopened in August after an initial shutdown in the spring. In a column for the Catholic Standard, Cardinal Gregory noted that “even in the uncertainty of this current situation, if we are open, God will use this moment to bring our hearts closer to Him and more firmly in union with one another.” 

As he confronted those challenges in his first 18 months as the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Gregory, who turns 73 on Dec. 7, 2020, has centered his ministry on visiting local Catholic parishes, schools and outreach programs, keeping a promise that he made in his opening statement as Washington’s archbishop, “I seek to be a pastor for this entire family of faith.” In his interview with CNS before the Consistory, the new cardinal emphasized that his primary role will remain serving as the archbishop of Washington.

Upon his return from the Consistory, Cardinal Gregory was scheduled to celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving at parishes in different parts of the Archdiocese of Washington, to share the experience of becoming a cardinal with local Catholics who could not join him for the ceremony in Rome during the pandemic. – reporting from the 2020 Consistory written by Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service, and the roundup on Cardinal Gregory’s life and ministry was written by Mark Zimmermann