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Gregory Named New Atlanta Archbishop

December 9, 2004

ATLANTA (AP) _ Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, who was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for three years during the height of the clergy molestation crisis, has been appointed by Pope John Paul II to serve as Archbishop of Atlanta, the archdiocese announced Thursday.

Gregory, 57, who had been serving as bishop in Belleville, Ill., will become Atlanta’s sixth archbishop. He succeeds Archbishop John F. Donoghue, who is resigning.

Gregory was the first black president of the bishops conference when he was elected in November 2001. At the time, his election was seen by black Catholics as long-awaited recognition of their presence in the church.

But scandal soon eclipsed his historic elevation to leadership.

A week before his term expired as leader of the conference, Gregory said the pressure of guiding the church through the height of the sex abuse crisis ``drove me to my knees″ spiritually.

Gregory led the bishops through nothing short of a revolution in their approach to abuse. They now have a binding policy on how to respond to allegations that includes barring offenders from church work and a national lay watchdog panel to help enforce the plan.

Even so, Gregory was forced to handle warring factions: victims of priest abuse who said the policy is too weak, and priests who consider it too draconian.

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