Cardinal Wilton Gregory made an appearance on the Today Show this morning, giving Christmas greetings to the nation and anticipating today’s Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.
Their brief discussion concerned the now two-year pandemic and how it is affecting (and overcome by) Christmas—Gregory’s third as archbishop of Washington, his post since April 2019, and his second as a cardinal.
He is just a year removed from becoming the first African-American in Church history to receive a red hat, a monumental moment that made waves worldwide (and landed Gregory on the Today Show with fellow Black Catholic Al Roker earlier this year).
More than half of Gregory's tenure in Washington has now been during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his message for the holidays is to keep our eyes on our hope rather than our struggle.
“We have to focus on what God has done for us,” he said, not shying away from evangelism on the second most-watched morning show in America.
“We celebrate the fact that God has sent us his son, and that gift along gives meaning and direction to our lives.”
The cardinal opined that “the worst part of the pandemic has been feeling in isolation”, and that a key to balance is finding paths toward fellowship—an elusive activity amidst political strife, the dangers of gathering physically, and the unpredictability of the virus itself.
The newest variant of COVID-19, Omicron, has wreaked havoc worldwide in recent months, and Gregory noted that it’s hard to know where we actually are in the grand scheme of the pandemic.
“Hopefully we are moving toward a conclusion, but we don’t know,” he said.
“But one of the things we have discovered is that it’s easier to deal with a challenge when we deal with that challenge together.”
In a decidedly interfaith moment, Alexander—who is Jewish—closed out the segment by asking Gregory to give a Christmas blessing.
Naturally, he obliged.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).