Pope names new archbishop of Washington

©Agence France-Presse

The flag of Vatican City hangs at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in Washington, before Pope Francis named Archbishop Wilton Gregory to lead the archdiocese in the US capital

Washington (AFP) - Pope Francis on Wednesday named Wilton Gregory to be the new archbishop of Washington, naming the African American leader of the Catholic church in Atlanta, Georgia to the politically sensitive and scandal-plagued post.

Gregory, 71, the only living African American archbishop in the US church, will be installed next month, the archdiocese of Washington said in a statement.

"I look forward to encountering and listening to the people of this local Church as we address the issues that face us and continue to grow in the Love of Christ that sustains us," Gregory said in a statement.

Gregory's two previous successors -- Cardinal Donald Wuerl and former cardinal Theodore McCarrick -- became caught up in the child sexual abuse scandals rocking the church.

Wuerl led the archdiocese from 2006 until 2018. The pope accepted his resignation in October amid criticism of his handling of abuse-of-minor cases by priests while bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

McCarrick resigned as a cardinal and was defrocked earlier this year after a church investigation found him guilty of sexual crimes against adults and minors as well as abuse of power.

Wuerl is a cardinal who remains Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese. He welcomed Gregory's appointment, expressing confidence and enthusiasm as the Washington archdiocese "opens a new chapter and looks to the future."