WASHINGTON – The Rev. D. Wilton Gregory was installed Tuesday as the seventh archbishop of Washington, after a couple of high-profile sexual abuse cases that the fall of his two predecessors.
The 71-year-old Gregory, the former archbishop of Atlanta, the first African-American to lead the Washington archdiocese.
Gregory replaces Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned in October amid allegations that he covered up multiple abuse scandals while serving as a bishop in Pittsburgh.
Wuerl had to replace Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked by the pope after a Vatican-backed investigation concluded he sexually abused children and adults during his time as a priest in New York and a bishop in New Jersey. It was the first time that a cardinal was dismissed from office for abuse.
Despite his resignation, Wuerl continues to have a good reputation in the church, and served in a caretaker role during the search for his successor was conducted. On Tuesday, he gave the opening remarks on the introduction of Gregory.
“We recognize there are many gifts and welcome him as a faithful pastor,” Wuerl said. “It is clear that Pope Francis will send us a bishop is reconciled with the signs of the times and endowed with great pastoral ability.”
Gregory, in his speech, which direct the recent scandals.
“We are at a turning point for this local community,” he said. “Our recent grief and shame do not define us. Rather, they serve to chasten and strengthen us.”
Calling his installation “an indescribably painful time,” Gregory pledged to create an open and inclusive environment.
“I want to be a good shepherd,” he said. “We begin a journey together on unquestionably the turbulent sea.”
Gregory is credited for his leadership of the AMERICAN church is in a time of crisis. As chairman of the U.S. bishops ‘ conference, he persuaded the church leaders to adopt toughened penalties for the perpetrators in 2002.
In Atlanta, Gregory was involved briefly in a scandal of his own in 2014 after the archdiocese used $2.2 million in donations to buy and renovate a swank new home for the archbishop. The mansion was later sold, and Gregory apologized after a call from the parishioners.
A native of Chicago, Gregory takes a relatively small archdiocese that has always had great importance due to its location in the capital city of the country. Washington’s archbishops are traditionally elevated to cardinals; if that happens, Gregory would become the first African-American cardinal.