Historic Moment the 1st Time an African American Cardinal takes Possession of his Titular Church in Rome - Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington
Pope Francis elevated Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington to the College of Cardinals 10 months ago. On September 27th, he took possession of his titular church in Rome, the Church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the Grottarossa neighborhood of northern Rome.
Excerpts from Catholic Stand report: "Whenever I recall Our Lady's title, I will be united with you and your families and clergy in prayer," he promised them, reading his text in Italian. "I also hope that you will remember me and the Archdiocese of Washington in your prayers, as we are now joined in devotion and affection through the intercession of her whose Son established the Church as one family of faith, hope and love."
Cardinals are symbolically priests of the Diocese of Rome, so they are given titular churches in the city, following the practice of ancient times when cardinals were pastors of Rome parishes.
Father Valerio Bortolotti, the pastor, welcomed the cardinal to "this little church in the middle of nowhere on the periphery of Rome" more than 4,000 miles from Washington.
"A precious treasure is hidden here," the priest said, since the church is near the site where legend holds that the Emperor Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky and began his conversion to Christianity. And, he said, the church itself was the gift of a wealthy landowner who wanted the people who worked his land or labored in his brick factory to be under the protection of Mary.
Cardinal Gregory's titular church on the ancient Via Flaminia was built in 1935.
Until 1958, there were only 70 cardinals in the world. As the number of cardinals increased -- there were 217 as of Sept. 27 -- the popes gave more Rome parishes the distinction of being a cardinal's titular church. Immaculate Conception was given the honor by St. John Paul II in 1985.