The powerful and the poor filled the largest church in North America to welcome Archbishop Wilton Gregory as the seventh Archbishop of Washington.
The installation Mass drew thousands of worshippers, eight cardinals, fifty bishops, 300 priests, and a high-level delegation of White House officials to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Gregory, aged 71, is the first black archbishop in the nation’s capital.
The appointment of the highly experienced Gregory – he has been a bishop since 1983, past president of the U.S. bishops’ conference who led the hierarchy in drafting the 2004 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Minors, archbishop in the fast-growing city of Atlanta for 14 years – to Washington was clearly intended to calm the waters in the archdiocese.
In the past year, the city’s fifth archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, resigned the cardinalate and was later removed from the priesthood after being found guilty of sexual improprieties with minors and seminarians.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, an early leader in the fight against clergy sex abuse while serving as bishop of Pittsburgh, was the highest ranking prelate named, and thus became the face of, last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing 1,000 cases of sex abuse by some 300 priests.
Already serving past the mandatory retirement age of 75, Wuerl asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation due to the resulting media firestorm.
“We stand at a defining moment for this local faith community – our hearts filled with hope and eagerness,” said Gregory in his homily. “The storied history of this great Archdiocese is a gift to the Church in the United States. Our recent sorrow and shame do not define us; rather, they serve to chasten and strengthen us to face tomorrow with spirits undeterred.
"Together, we implore the Holy Spirit to fortify us with the grace, perseverance and determination that only Christ Himself is able to provide as a gift of His Presence, Peace and Promise.”