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Pope Francis appoints America's first black cardinal

Pope Francis has announced the appointment of 13 new cardinals, including the first African-American to ever hold the lofty clerical position. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who was picked by the Pope last year to lead the embattled Archdiocese of Washington, will now join with 33 fellow American cardinals in one of the highest offices of the Catholic Church. 

In a statement, Archbishop Gregory said: “With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church.”

A prominent Archbishop who has served three times as the head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, Gregory is one of a group of Catholic bishops who spoke out against President Donald Trump after he engaged in a photo-op outside a church in Lafayette Square following days of anti-racism protests.

On the same day as his controversial appearance, Trump — along with first lady Melania — paid a visit to the shrine of Pope John Paul II, infuriating many Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Gregory, who called it "baffling and reprehensible".

“St Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings," the Archbishop said at the time. "His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Other newly named cardinals include the long-standing papal preacher at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan friar, Archbishop Antoine Kambanda, Archbishop Jose Fuerte Advincula and Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco.

The chosen clergy are set to be elevated to the rank of cardinal in a ceremony on November 28. 

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