This afternoon, during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will be installed as Archbishop of Washington. Archbishop Gregory previously served as the Archbishop of Atlanta, and succeeds Archbishop Donald Wuerl, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in October 2018.
Prior to his installation, Archbishop Gregory chatted with Morning Air® hosts John Harper and Glen Lewerenz on what he is looking forward to in serving the Archdiocese of Washington.
On what he anticipates as his role in serving in the nation’s capital, Archbishop Gregory said, “When I first heard the announcement I clearly told the people that I was not elected to Congress, I was appointed to be the bishop. And they are two very distinct roles and functions.”
“I, as the archbishop of Washington, have to explain, teach, proclaim, and defend the Church’s teaching, its social principles, and its great heritage of faith,” he said. “But I also have to do that respecting the role that elected government officials have. We have to respect one another and recognize the differences that distinguish the reasons why we’re living here in Washington.”
Given that recent abortion laws have been at the center of the national debate lately, Archbishop Gregory emphasized his intention to promote Church teaching and the need to protect the dignity of all human life, at every stage.
“The Church must proclaim, in season and out of season, the dignity of every human life, from its first moments in conception to its conclusion at the end of life,” he said. “So not only must we defend human life that is waiting to be born, but we have to defend and proclaim the dignity of human life that is to be found among immigrant people, the poor, those imprisoned, those who live with physical or emotional disabilities. There has to be this unquestioned chain of the dignity of human life at each of its stages.”
As an African American, Archbishop Gregory offers a valuable perspective on racial divisions within the Church and within our nation. As such, he recognizes that members of any race are not a monolith, but real people with their own unique stories, gifts, and needs.
“As someone born in Chicago and who has served in southern Illinois and in Atlanta, I too have to learn what is the legacy and the heritage that is so proudly shared among African American Catholics here in the Washington archdiocese,” he said. “As I have said before, I am the son of the African American Catholic community that has been called to become the shepherd of this local church.”
The people of the Archdiocese of Washington have faced difficult challenges over the last year. After news broke that their former archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, had abused both minors and seminarians, Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s resignation was accepted with many questions about the scandal still left unanswered. Archbishop Gregory acknowledged these challenges and expressed hope that he can accompany his flock in healing and moving forward.
“First of all, I have to speak the truth to them,” he said. “I can’t be Pollyana and denying the challenges we’ve experienced, the difficulties, the shame. But I also have to invite them to reach down into their own spiritual hearts and their own legacy of faith. To see that if we dwell completely on all that the past has done – including the scandal, the difficulties, the problems, the sources of embarrassment – if we dwell on those we compromise our tomorrows.”
But despite the challenges that may come, Archbishop Gregory remained hopeful regarding what awaits him in the Archdiocese of Washington. Because, as he shared, it is the sacraments and serving the Body of Christ that bring him the most satisfaction. He said that from the moment of his ordination until today, his favorite part of being a priest is engaging with people.
“Praying with them, laughing with them, supporting them, comforting them in sorrow, applauding them when they have moments to rejoice, confirming the young people with much delight, witnessing marriages, baptizing babies. Those are the things that I wanted to be a priest for. Those are the things that I find most delightful. Those are the things that I think bring me the deepest satisfaction.”
Listen to the full conversation with Archbishop Wilton Gregory below: