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Report: Pope Francis Asks Atlanta Archbishop to Lead Washington Diocese

Former Washington Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigned in October amid a storm of criticism after a Pennsylvania grand jury report said he allowed priests accused of sexually abusing children to be reassigned or reinstated

What to Know

  • Reports say Pope Francis has asked Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta to serve as the next Archbishop of Washington
  • Gregory, 71, has served as Archbishop of Atlanta for 14 years
  • The Vatican is looking to replace former Archbishop Donald Wuerl, who resigned amid a child sex abuse scandal

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that Pope Francis is expected to appoint Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta to serve as the next Archbishop of Washington, citing multiple sources.

Neither the Archdiocese of Washington nor the Vatican have confirmed the report.

“We are awaiting an announcement from the Holy See and will have no further comment," the Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement.

"The new archbishop has incredible challenges ahead of him," said Catholic University Professor Chad Pecknold. "He has, of course, a Church in Washington which has a pastoral ministry to the political community. Who has a ministry to those who have themselves been harmed by the abuse."

Former Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigned in October after a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released alleging the Wuerl — who was then Bishop of Pittsburgh — did little to stop predator priests.

The Cardinal and many of his supporters vehemently deny that accusation.

The controversy still makes it a difficult time to inherit the seat in Washington.

"To those who have lost trust in the Church in Washington, he must rebuild trust. To those who have in a sense said, 'See ya later' to the Church, he must win them back," Pecknold said.

Archbishop Gregory was appointed to Atlanta in 2004, but he is no stranger to Washington. From 2001 to 2004 he served as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

During his tenure in office, the crisis of sex abuse by Catholic clergy escalated and the bishops implemented the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" under Gregory's leadership.

Under his leadership, the bishops implemented the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Sources in Rome tell the CNA that Gregory was informed of the appointment earlier this week. NBC Washington has not yet confirmed that Gregory was asked, and it's not clear if he would accept the appointment.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory is a Chicago native and has been in the priesthood for almost half a century.

The 71-year-old has served as Archbishop of Atlanta for the past 14 years.

If he were to accept the Pope's appointment, he would become the seventh Archbishop of Washington and the first African-American Archbishop in our area.

It's important to note that the five most recent archbishops in Washington were all created cardinals. No African-American person has been made a Cardinal in the history of the Catholic church.

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