Wuerl said with Gregory’s appointment, the archdiocese was opening a new chapter as it moves into the future. “We can all - with great confidence and enthusiasm - welcome our new shepherd.”
The installation will be held on May 21.
The news of his appointment became official on the 51st anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In response to a question, Gregory, a native of Chicago, said he was 20 years old when the civil rights leader was slain.
“It was a turning point in my life to have seen this extraordinary American, this preacher of the Gospel, this great humanitarian cut down in his youth and what that loss meant to our nation and indeed what it meant to the world,” he said. “It was a turning point that allows me to see a modern-day martyr for the cause of justice and peace, unity, and to see the impact that both his life and his death have had on people.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who has accepted a Vatican offer to be the new archbishop of Washington, issued his first statement about the move:
“I am deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this appointment to serve the Archdiocese of Washington and to work with all of the members of this faith community,” Gregory said in a release from the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“I look forward to encountering and listening to the people of this local Church as we address the issues that face us and continue to grow in the Love of Christ that sustains us.”
Pope Francis has named Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as the seventh archbishop of Washington.
Gregory has served as archbishop in Atlanta since 2005.
After much speculation, the news was made official on Thursday.
»» WHO IS WILTON GREGORY?: Things to know about the Archbishop
Archbishop-designate Gregory will succeed Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has served as spiritual leader to over 655,000 Catholics living in Washington, D.C., and suburban and southern Maryland from June 2006 to October 2018, according to a release from the Archdiocese of Washington.
Gregory, 71, is considered a moderate in the church. He is the former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the only living African-American archbishop in the United States.