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Sun, 12.07.1947

Wilton Gregory, Bishop born

Wilton D. Gregory

Reverend Wilton D. Gregory was born in Chicago on this date in 1947. He is a Black Roman Catholic bishop and the seventh bishop of Belleville, Illinois.

Gregory is the son of Wilton, Sr. and Ethel Duncan Gregory. He attended St. Carthage Grammar School, Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, Niles College (now St. Joseph's College Seminary) of Loyola University, and Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary.  Three years after his ordination to the priesthood, he began graduate studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute (Sant' Anselmo) in Rome, where he earned his doctorate in Sacred Liturgy in 1980. In 1973, Gregory was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 1983, he was ordained a bishop after serving as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview, IL. Bishop Gregory was installed as the Seventh Bishop of Belleville in 1994.

In 2001, Bishop Gregory was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following three years as vice president under Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Gregory also serves on the NCCB Executive and Administrative Committees and on the Administrative Board.  He has served as chairman of the Bishops' Committees on Personnel, the Third Millennium/Jubilee Year 2000, and Liturgy. Other recent committee assignments include the Committee on Doctrine and the United States Catholic Conference on International Policy. Bishop Gregory has written extensively on church issues, including pastoral statements on the death penalty and euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide.

He has published many articles on liturgy, particularly in the Black community, and writes a regular column, "What I Have Seen and Heard," for the diocesan newspaper, The Messenger. Bishop Gregory's responsibilities in the Diocese of Belleville and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with many outside requests for his presence as a speaker or retreat director, keep him extremely active. When he is not engaged in his official ministry, the Bishop enjoys travel, music, racquetball, and golf.

Hoping to end a crisis they admit was of their own making in Dallas over the summer of 2002, Gregory and other bishops are trying to approve a clerical sex abuse policy within the Catholic Church. This would remove all molesters from parish life and kick most abusers out of the priesthood. During a highly dramatic opening, President Gregory of the bishops' conference bluntly acknowledged that bishops' mistakes helped cause the scandal. He has frequently apologized for the bishops' role in the crisis, yet his remarks were direct.

“We are the ones who chose not to report the criminal actions of priests to the authorities because the law did not require this. We are the ones who worried more about the possibility of scandal than in bringing about the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse.”

Archbishop Gregory has been awarded seven honorary doctoral degrees. He was awarded the Sword of Loyola from the Loyola University of Chicago in 2004.  In 2006, he joined an illustrious group of preachers with his induction into the Martin Luther King Board of Preachers at Morehouse College, Atlanta. At the National Pastoral Life Center in Washington, D.C., in June 2006, Archbishop Gregory was honored with the Cardinal Bernardin Award from the Catholic Common Ground Initiative.

On October 25, 2020, Pope Francis named 13 new cardinals, including Wilton Gregory, who would become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat.


An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0

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