Pope Francis appointed Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington D.C., as the first Black American cardinal in a consistory ceremony over the weekend.

During the historic ceremony, Gregory joined cardinals from marginalized Catholic areas in Rwanda, Chile and the Philippines, as the Pope previously stressed a need for the church to support communities of color. Due to the coronavirus precautions, two of the cardinals didn’t travel to Rome for the ceremony, also a first for the church, according to CBS News. 

Prior to the appointment, Gregory, a Chicago native, told CBS News that the honor is "an affirmation of Black Catholics in the United States, the heritage of faith and fidelity that we represent."

“With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church,” Gregory said in an October statement to The New York Times.

This past summer, Gregory made headlines after criticizing President Donald Trump for having demonstrators tear-gassed outside of the White House so that he could pose for a photo in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Gregory condemned the president’s actions as an attempt “to silence, scatter or intimidate” crowds “for a photo opportunity,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

He later blasted Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus for hosting the president the following day at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles,” he said.

With protest erupting nationally over the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Pope Francis has since endorsed racial justice efforts looking to change historical injustices done to people of color.

"There is awareness now of the need for racial reconciliation, an awareness that I have not seen at this level and at this intensity before," Gregory said.

As Blavity previously reported, the pope named Gregory as the archbishop of Washington, D.C. last year following sexual abuse reports that had his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, defrocked.

During his life in the church, Gregory has been an advocate for the LGBTQ+community and has taken a hard stance against the rampant sexual abuse discovered in the Catholic church. He also helped implement the Dallas Charter, a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abusers.

According to CBS News, the new cardinals and others who traveled to Rome for Saturday's service were required to undergo 10 days of quarantine at the pope's hotel. The only contact they could have with the outside world was through Zoom and video calls.

In most cases, the consistory ceremony is followed by courtesy visits, where the new cardinals greet the general public from their reception rooms in the Apostolic Palace or Vatican auditorium. This year, there were no courtesy visits allowed, and each cardinal was permitted a 10-guest limit.