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Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory suggests that Obama’s victory is a foretaste of what will happen in the Catholic Church–once we get around to electing an African as pope. As Richard Owens reports from Rome…
Archbishop Gregory, who in 2001 became the first African American to head the US Bishops Conference, serving for three years, said that the election of Mr Obama was “a great step forward for humanity and a sign that in the United States the problem of racial discrimination has been overcome”. Like Mr Obama Archbishop Gregory comes from Chicago, and was previously Bishop of Belleville, Illinois.
He said that recent Popes, beginning with John XXIII and Paul VI, had brought prelates “from all nations and races” to Rome to take up senior positions in the Curia, the Vatican hierarchy. This offered “an international vision of a Church rich in diversity”, he told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Archbishop Gregory said that the next time cardinals gathered to elect a Pope they could “in their wisdom” choose an African pontiff. “My own election as head of the US Bishops Conference was an important signal. In 2001 the American bishops elected someone they respected regardless of his race, and the same thing could happen with the election of a Pope.”
I’d also note that within two months of his election as head of the USCCB, then-Bishop Gregory was hit with the sex abuse tsunami. His response to the crisis was (geenrally) considered agile and bold, and his racial breakthrough was soon forgotten. Perhaps Obama will enjoy a similar fate.
In any case, rumors are intensifying that Archbishop Gregory is on the short-list to replace Cardinal Egan in New York. At this point, the American church could use that more than an African pope…