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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."

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