FILE - In this June 14, 2017 file photo, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory speaks during a Mass to repent clergy sexual abuse and to pray for molestation victims, in Indianapolis. Pope Francis has named Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory as the new archbishop of Washington D.C., choosing a moderate, and the first African-American, to lead the archdiocese that has become the epicenter of the clergy sex abuse crisis in the U.S. The 71-year-old Gregory replaces Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned last year after being implicated in covering up abuse by a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings, file
Photo: AP Photo/Darron Cummings, file

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory promises transparency as he accepts D.C. job

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Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, in his first press conference since being named to lead the Washington Archdiocese, promised transparency and said he would rebuild trust in the church and “reclaim the future.”

“This is obviously a moment fraught with challenges throughout our entire Catholic church certainly, but nowhere more so than in this local faith community,” said  Gregory, who becomes the seventh and first African-American archbishop for Washington. “And, as in any family, challenges can only be overcome by a firmly articulated resolve and commitment to do better, to know Christ better, to love Christ better, to serve Christ better. 

“I would be naive not to acknowledge the unique task that awaits us. Yet, I know as I have always known that I can, and will, rely upon the grace of God and on the goodness of the people of this local church to help me fulfill those new responsibilities.”

He was introduced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington, who is Gregory’s immediate predecessor. Wuerl resigned last year amid criticism of his handling of sex abuse scandals.

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.”

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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.”

Previous story:

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.

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