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Pope Francis Names Archbishop Wilton Gregory First Black American Bishop

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's an historic appointment for the U.S. Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has named a Black bishop to the powerful College of Cardinals.

Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. will become the first-ever African-American Prince of the Church.

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It's the appointment many Black Catholics have been waiting for, including All Hallows High School teacher Brunelle Griffith.

"On a personal note, it's obviously really grand to see this," Griffith said.

During a Sunday address in Rome, the pope made a surprise announcement: He's creating 13 new cardinals, including Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. - America's first ever Black cardinal.

African-Americans represent about 4% of U.S. Catholics. In the 20th Century, the U.S. didn't even have a black Catholic bishop until 1965.

Archbishop Gregory joins the powerful College of Cardinals who work closest with the pope, and will eventually choose his successor.

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Gregory has been a strong voice for social and racial justice, and many believe will bring an important perspective to the College of Cardinals.

"If you hope to understand individuals with those needs, it makes sense to have someone who has lived their life and experienced those kind of difficulties," Griffith said.

"He has been instrumental in bringing the bishops of the United States to an attentive posture to the issue of racism," said Fr. Gregory Chisholm, SJ of St. Charles Borromeo.

"The pope recognized that yes, we do need to have a Black cardinal in the United States. It will provide great encouragement to the Black community. It will provide him with the clout he needs to fight systemic racism," said Fr. Tom Reese, SJ of the Religion News Service.

Reese says beyond Gregory, Francis is remaking the College of Cardinals, soon to be only 41% European, reflecting the church's growth in Africa and South America.

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