Pope to name 13 new cardinals including first African American

Pope Francis is due on Saturday to name 13 new cardinals, including Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the first black US prelate to be admitted among the so-called Princes of the Church. Gregory, who turns 73 next month, leads an archdiocese rocked by the scandal of Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop who was defrocked last year after being outed as a serial sexual predator.

In June, Gregory made headlines after criticising outgoing US President Donald Trump for turning a visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine as "a photo opportunity."

He and other cardinals-elect were due to be given the red hats and rings that come with their titles in a service led by the pope in St Peter's Basilica.

The ceremony, known as a consistory, was set to start at 4 pm (1500 GMT), but two of the 13 new cardinals, both based in Asia, were going to miss it because of coronavirus travel restrictions. The Apostolic Vicar of Brunei, Cornelius Sim, and the Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines, Jose Fuerte Advincula would be thus appointed in absentia, the Vatican said earlier this week.

Because of pandemic risks, there will be also a reduced audience at the consistory, with around 100 guests plus a number of existing cardinals. Also, a customary hug between cardinals will be forfeited.

The main role cardinals have in the church is to elect popes in a conclave, a closed-door summit. Only those aged under 80 can take part, and nine of the new appointees meet this requirement.

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