The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Pope Francis’s Oct. 25 announcement that he has named Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory a cardinal is “a powerful message of hope and inclusion to the Church in the United States.”

“As a former president of our national bishops’ conference, Archbishop Gregory displayed generous and principled leadership,” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB said in a statement. “The naming of the first African American cardinal from the United States gives us an opportunity to pause and offer thanks for the many gifts African American Catholics have given to the Church. Please join me in praying for the continued ministry of Archbishop Gregory.”

Archbishop Gomez’s statement was one of many from around the region and across the country praising Cardinal-designate Gregory’s elevation to the College of Cardinals.

A native of Chicago, Cardinal-designate Gregory was a sixth grader attending St. Carthage School in Chicago in 1958 when he was inspired by the example of the parish priests and Adrian Dominican sisters there to become Catholic.

“We are grateful to Pope Francis for his appointment today of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as Cardinal of the Catholic Church,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago. “While we take particular pride in this recognition of a dedicated priest, whom we are proud to claim as our own we are also moved that Pope Francis chose this compassionate, thoughtful pastor when our nation and the world are in desperate need of healing and courageous leadership.”

The Adrian Dominican Sisters, in an Oct. 25 statement, said the sisters “rejoice at the historic appointment by Pope Francis of Archbishop Wilton Gregory as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.”

“Archbishop Gregory’s appointment is a blessing beyond measure for the entire Church. As the first African American to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Gregory will bring the unique gifts and perspectives of Black Americans and Black Catholicism to the global Church’s highest ecclesiastical body,” the sisters’ statement said. “As a prelate deeply committed to social and racial justice, Archbishop Gregory will bring his courageous voice of integrity to the Pope’s inner circle, speaking words of compassion and inclusivity.”

Noting that Cardinal-designate Gregory “has credited Adrian Dominican teachers at St. Carthage Grammar School in Chicago with inspiring him to convert to Catholicism,” the sisters said that “Archbishop Gregory, soon to be Cardinal Gregory, has long inspired us – and continues ever more.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement saying, it “rejoices in the appointment of Chicago native, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, to the College of Cardinals in the Catholic Church. His brother priests, many of whom he helped form, and the people of the archdiocese he served join in offering our heartful congratulations.”

The statement praised Cardinal-designate Gregory as “a strong leader in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the Church and society. In his years as president of the United States Conference of Bishops and beyond, he has been at the forefront of moving the Church to repair the damage of child sexual abuse and confronting racism in all its forms.

Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., who succeeded Cardinal-designate as archbishop of Atlanta in 2019, said in a statement that he is “grateful to Pope Francis for recognizing the extraordinary contributions that Archbishop Wilton Gregory has made to the American Catholic Church since becoming a bishop 37 years ago.”

“The entire Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrates this recognition of the archbishop’s leadership. The Catholic Church in the United States and we rejoice in the choice of the archbishop’s elevation to cardinal by Pope Francis,” the archbishop said in his statement. “Being chosen as the first African American cardinal from the United States indicates the pope’s awareness of the needs and gifts of the multicultural Catholic population throughout the United States.”

Noting the good work done by Cardinal-designate Gregory on the diocesan and national levels – including his work playing a key role in the development of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 – Archbishop Hartmayer said “it is clear that the talents and accomplishments of Archbishop Gregory will be a part of his legacy as a leader not only in the United States, but also as a member of the College of Cardinals who attend to significant issues of dioceses throughout the world.”

The naming of Cardinal-designate Gregory to the College of Cardinals was hailed by neighboring dioceses.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said “I join everyone in our own Archdiocese as well as our neighbors in the Archdiocese of Washington in sending our prayers and warm congratulations to Archbishop Gregory on this joyful occasion of being named a Cardinal.”

“As our country’s first African American cardinal, he will bring a critically important perspective to his new role, along with the wisdom and deep love of our faith that are so evident in his long-standing service to the Church,” Archbishop Lori said.

Arlington, Virginia, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge congratulated Cardinal-designate Gregory “on this most welcomed news” and said that “as the first black cardinal of the United States, this historic announcement is an honor and blessing for him (Cardinal-designate Gregory) as well as for the entire Church in our country. “

“Cardinal-designate Gregory is a friend for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration. He has a distinguished record of providing sound leadership to the Catholic Church in the United States, including his service as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops … Archbishop of Atlanta …and currently as Archbishop of Washington, D.C.,” Bishop Burbidge said. “It was a great privilege to work with then-Archbishop Gregory as my Metropolitan Archbishop when I served as Bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, from 2006 to 2016. His arrival in Washington, D.C. last year enabled us to continue working in close collaboration, which has been both a joy and an honor for me. Cardinal-designate Gregory is a model of pastoral leadership and he provides a much-needed voice on the issues facing the Church and our society.”

In his statement, Bishop Burbidge also congratulated “the priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington on this most notable occasion.” 

Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – of which Cardinal-designate Gregory is chairman of its Board of Trustees – said “on behalf of the priests, religious, and staff of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I am pleased to offer heartfelt congratulations to Archbishop Gregory on his elevation to the College of Cardinals. “

“As the first African-American archbishop of Washington, the first African-American chairman of the National Shrine’s Board of Trustees, and now our nation’s first African-American cardinal, we are most grateful to Archbishop Gregory for his ongoing historic leadership and service which will continue in an even greater capacity as a cardinal and collaborator of Pope Francis in his pastoral care for the Church,” Msgr. Rossi said.

Earlier this month, Cardinal-designate Gregory celebrated the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, seeking God’s blessing on those in the legal and justice professions.

The annual Mass is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, which issued a statement to say it “congratulates warmly” the news of the archbishop’s elevation to the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal-designate Gregory also serves on the Board of Governors of the Maryland Catholic Conference. Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, issued the following statement:

“Today’s appointment of Cardinal-elect Gregory to the College of Cardinals is a great honor for him, for the people he serves, and for all of us here in Maryland. Cardinal-elect Gregory is a pastor at heart whose gentle ministry is guided by his deep love for Christ. The universal Church will gain from his wisdom, kindness and faith as he takes on this new responsibility as a special advisor to the Holy Father and a papal elector.

“As our state and nation continues to grapple with racial tension, the appointment of the first African-American Cardinal in history also has special significance. Throughout his ministry, Cardinal-elect Gregory has sought to address wrongs and bridge differences. Earlier this month, he participated in a virtual town hall on police reform in Maryland and in June, he and the other bishops of Maryland released a letter on racial justice.

 “We offer him our prayers and support.”

Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life tweeted congratulations to Cardinal-designate Gregory, and noted that “he is our pastor, our leader, our friend. He has been a frequent participant in Initiative dialogues.”

Cardinal-designate Gregory has long been a leader in Catholic-Jewish and Black-Jewish relations and most recently in June participated in a “Race in America: The Faith Perspective” online discussion sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

The AJC, a worldwide organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism, extremism and all forms of racism, tweeted, “Congratulations to our friend, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, a leader in building Catholic-Jewish relations who addressed AJC in June, on his appointment (by Pope Francis) to Cardinal – the first African American in the College of Cardinals!”