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Archbishop Wilton Gregory. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., became the first Black American to earn the rank of cardinal on Saturday.

The big picture: His appointment comes during a time in which the country continues to examine the role of race relations, and as the world endures the many-month stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Gregory — who was already the highest-ranking African American Catholic in U.S. history — gained national attention in June, when he condemned President Trump's trip to a D.C. shrine, saying at the time that the facility was being “egregiously misused and manipulated.”
    • "[Saint Pope John Paul II] certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace," the 72-year-old said in a statement.

Details: Gregory was also the only American among 13 men elevated to the College of Cardinals during Saturday's ceremony at the Vatican, per CNN.

  • The other new cardinals include men from Rwanda, Brunei, Chile and the Philippines.
  • Gregory tested negative for COVID-19 before traveling to Italy, and was tested again upon arrival before quarantining for 10 days at the pope's hotel. The Vatican is presently under a partial lockdown, as Pope Francis’ public general audiences is cancelled, and instead live-streamed.

What he's saying: Gregory said in an interview that he hopes to be a "voice for the African American community in the pope’s ear," according to the Washington Post.

  • "Among the people that have congratulated me and wished me well, friends and colleagues, I’ve heard this: It’s about time," Gregory said. "But it is also an important recognition that the African American, the Black Catholic community, is an important component within the larger, universal church."

Go deeper

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.

Biden to sign voting rights order to mark "Bloody Sunday" anniversary

President Biden will sign an executive order today, on the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," meant to promote voting rights, according to an administration official.

Why it matters: The executive order comes as Democrats face an uphill battle to pass a sweeping election bill meant, in part, to combat a growing number of proposals introduced by Republicans at the state level that would restrict voter access.