Pope installs African-American cardinal

Wilton Gregory has become the first African-American cardinal in a scaled-down Vatican ceremony.
Wilton Gregory has become the first African-American cardinal in a scaled-down Vatican ceremony.

Pope Francis has installed 13 new cardinals, including the first African-American to hold the high rank.

The cardinals were installed in a ceremony known as a consistory, which was markedly slimmed down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of the usual thousands, only 10 guests per cardinal were allowed in St Peter's Basilica as the Pope gave the men their ring and traditional red hat, known as a biretta.

Nine of the 13 are under 80 and eligible under church law to enter a secret conclave to choose the next Pope from among themselves after Francis dies or resigns.

So far, Pope Francis has appointed 18 cardinals from mostly far-flung countries that never had one, nearly all of them from the developing world.

In Saturday's consistory, Brunei and Rwanda got their first cardinals.

The nine new electors come from Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei and Mexico.

In his homily, Francis told the men to keep their eyes on God, avoid all forms of corruption, and not succumb to a "worldly spirit" that can accompany the prestige and power of their new rank.

Everyone in the basilica except the Pope wore a mask. Each new cardinal removed theirs when they knelt before him to be invested.

Wilton Gregory, the 72-year-old archbishop of Washington DC, becomes the first African-American cardinal.

Gregory made headlines in June when he blasted US President Donald Trump's visit to a Catholic shrine in Washington.

Police and soldiers had used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters so Trump could be photographed in front of a historic Washington church holding a Bible.

Australian Associated Press