By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — Archbishop Wilton Gregory was in quarantine in Rome Friday, just hours away from making history as the South Side native will become the first Black American cardinal in the history of the Catholic Church Saturday.

Gregory converted to Catholicism in Chicago in Chicago during school integration and will now become one of the pope’s principal advisors.

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“It will be for me to be more actively engaged as a bridge builder between the African American Community and the Church Universal,” he said.

The 72-year-old will be the first Black cardinal in the United States, a move praised by the Archdiocese of Chicago, where he was ordained a priest in 1973. His first assignment was at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview. He was also a well known liturgy professor at University of Satin Mary of the Lake in Mundelein.

“What then Father Gregory really imparted to us was the pastoral of seeing the bigger picture and knowing the work isn’t done until you actually address the underlying conflict,” said Father Thomas Baima, Provost University of St. Mary of the Lake.

Baima, a former student of Gregory’s, said the archbishop’s defining moment came as he took leadership during the priest sex abuse crisis. He had a zero tolerance policy and more.

“Also by getting outside research by the John Dyke college of criminal justice into the causes and context,” Baima said. “This was someone who knew how to lead through a systemic problem.”

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Gregory says he hopes to bring unity and understanding over topics like racial and social justice issues.

He will also take the new role as matters like abortion are center stage, and division in the American church is at a high over Catholic President-Elect Joe Biden’s support of a woman’s right to choose.

“I have always seen myself as someone who is charged with being in dialogue and in conversation — knowing full well that there are areas about which we disagree, but also searching for those areas where we can find common ground,” Gregory said.

The grounds were set Friday for Gregory’s historic appointment, which is scheduled to take place at the Vatican in a special ceremony with Pope Francis.

All of the cardinals have been in quarantine for 10 days and will receive a COVID-19 test before the ceremony.

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