In a first, Wilton Gregory made history when he was picked as the first African-American cardinal during an installation ceremony in Rome on Saturday. The ceremony was telecast live on the official website of Vatican News. Gregory, along with the other 12, was elevated to the College of Cardinals. As a Cardinal, Gregory will be one of Pope Francis' closest advisors and one of only 120 or so men who will elect the next pontiff.
The 72-year-old, who was Washington's archbishop, was in quarantine and underwent a couple of COVID-19 tests before he took part in the ceremony.
Before his elevation, he had said: "I'm only one person, but at this point I'm a symbolic individual."
His elevation is "a sign of the importance of and respect for the African-American community" -- and comes as the first recognised African-American priest, Augustus Tolton, is being considered for sainthood, he said.
The first black archbishop of the US capital, appointed 18 months ago, did not hesitate to slam President Donald Trump's stunt with a bible last June after an anti-racism protest.
He has also not shied away from one of the Catholic Church's darkest ills: paedophile priests.
The US has been hit hard by the scandal and Gregory has echoed Francis in vowing zero tolerance.
As is customary, Gregory and 12 other new so-called "Princes of the Church," dressed in red cassocks, kneeled before the pope to receive their quadrangular scarlet cap, or biretta.
The colour red signifies the cardinals' willingness to shed their own blood for the church.
In almost eight years of pontificate, Pope Francis has selected the majority of cardinals who will chose his successor -- prelates who are very often in tune with his ideas.
The ceremony, known as a consistory, will be held in the sumptuous setting of Saint Peter's Basilica -- but this edition will be low key, due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Vatican is taking no risks with the health of the 83-year old pope and his cardinal-elects.
Two of those being raised to prince hood will not make the trip from Asia, a history in itself.