Pope Francis appoints America's first Black cardinal, Wilton Gregory

Archbishop Wilton Gregory poses for a portrait following mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington, DC on June 2, 2019.

(CNN) -- Last year, Wilton Gregory made history as Washington, DC's first African-American archbishop.

On Sunday, speaking following his Angelus prayer from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Pope Francis tapped Gregory to become America's first Black cardinal.

Archbishop Gregory is one of 13 to be elevated to the rank at a surprise consistory, or ceremony.

In fact, Archbishop Gregory is the only Black archbishop in the United States.

The leader is known for guiding the Catholic Church through its clergy sexual abuse crisis in the early 2000s.

Since 2005, he had led the Archdiocese of Atlanta, before being appointed Archbishop of Washington, DC in 2019.

The veteran leader was replacing Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who resigned in October 2018, bowing to public anger over his role in the sexual abuse crisis.

Cardinals' primary responsibility is to elect a new pope, should he step down or die, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis confirmed that nine of the 13 new cardinals are under the age of 80, which means they would be eligible to elect his successor.

According to Vatican News, the official news agency of the Holy See, cardinals wear the distinctive red vestment to indicate their willingness to sacrifice themselves to the point of shedding "their own blood in the service of the Successor of Peter."

Pope Francis announced the ceremony to install the new cardinals will take place on November 28.

CNN's Livia Borghese and Sarah Dean contributed to this story.

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