United States

New Washington Archbishop Celebrates First Sunday Mass

After formally being installed on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated his first Sunday Mass as the first African-American leader of Washington, D.C.'s Catholic community.

Celebrating the Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington, Gregory formally took over leadership of the Archdiocese of Washington's "Mother Church," remaining outside the doors of the cathedral at the start of Mass and knocking on the door to be let in.

Gregory was welcomed by Monsignor Ronald Jameson, the cathedral's rector, and Gregory venerated a crucifix before sprinkling holy water and processing down the aisle.

According to the Archdiocese, Gregory was joined by the Archbishop Charles G. Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast, Ghana, Washington auxiliary bishops Mario E. Dorsonville, Roy E. Campbell, Jr. and Michael W. Fisher.

Gregory spoke of the joy with which he is beginning his service as archbishop during his homily, saying, "there is an excitement in this moment for me and I pray a spirit of hope for all of you, but there is also a realistic sense as well."

"We are beginning something new," Gregory said. "We are establishing a new friendship and a new relationship that we all pray will be fruitful and filled with joy. Together we will face our future and we pray this morning that it will indeed be a future blessed by God Himself.”

Gregory also asked for trust and prayer from the faithful.

"As I knocked on the door of St. Matthew’s Cathedral, I sought entry not into a building, but into the lives of the people of the Church," Gregory said. "I pray that you will let me in so that together we can strengthen one another, encourage one another, and together wait in hope for the return of the One we seek most of all."

After the Mass concluded, Gregory greeted the faithful who attended the service as they left the cathedral.

Gregory is the seventh Archbishop of Washington and previously served as the archbishop of Atlanta. He was named to lead the capital's Catholics by Pope Francis in April to succeed Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who led the archdiocese for 12 years and resigned in 2018 after facing criticism for his handling of child sexual abuse cases while archbishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Gregory was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1947. He became the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, and shortly after adopted a "zero-tolerance" abuse policy to respond to sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

Gregory takes over after an embarrassing year for the Washington archdiocese, with its former archbishops at the center of a national spotlight over child sex abuse.

Theodore McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington before Wuerl, was revealed to have allegedly sexually harassed both juveniles and adults while a priest in New Jersey and New York. He was removed from the priesthood after the Archdiocese of New York found an accusation of sexual abuse credible and is the first U.S. cardinal to be removed from the priesthood over sex abuse allegations.

Wuerl resigned as archbishop of Washington in October 2018 after he was accused of covering up claims of sexual abuse against other priests, including McCarrick, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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