Monday, 28 November 2011

New Nuncio to Ireland

The new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland is Mgr Charles John (Charlie) Brown, heretofore an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mgr Brown was called to Rome in 1994 to work in the CDF and served under His Holiness until the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Roma locuta est. And how!

The new Nuncio has not, as is the usual case, been selected from within the Holy See’s diplomatic corps by the Secretary of State, advised by his two most senior collaborators, the Secretary of State Substitute for General Affair (Sostituto) and the Secretary for Relations with States.

Pope Benedict has sent a clear and unambiguous message to the Church, the Government and, and by no means least, the people of Ireland: “Ireland may seem to turn her back on Rome, but Rome will never turn her back on Ireland. And I send this man whom I personally have chosen as my token of my word.”

As he has done so often in the past, when looking to make a key appointment, His Holiness has looked to his closest collaborators, usually in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the CDF) and on the International Theological Commission (the ITC), but twice he has advanced the curial careers of the sostituti who have worked with him.

Most importantly, of course, he chose Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, formerly Secretary of the CDF, to succeed His Eminence Angelo Sodano as Cardinal Secretary of State. Cardinal Bertone is not a product of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the academia, and so had no background in papal diplomacy. And that is also the case with Mgr Brown.

Although the announcement of his appointment was made on Saturday, November 26, the Pope’s decision to pick Mgr Brown for the post would have been made some weeks ago. The Vatican doesn’t just come up with a name and then announce it. The nominee has to be cleared by the host Government. Despite recent problems between the Irish Government and the Holy See, the nomination would not have been expected to cause any problems.

In the weeks since he consented to his appointment, Mgr Brown will have been undergoing a crash course in Vatican diplomacy and, in particular, on the Vatican’s relations with Ireland, both recent and since independence. That course will continue, and intensify, in the weeks leading up to his episcopal ordination (for which no date has as yet been set, but usually it takes about six weeks; on this occasion, since Mgr Brown has worked so closely with the Pope at the CDF, one would expect His Holiness to offer Mgr Brown the option of being episcopally ordained in St Peter’s with the Holy Father officiating).

Of course, the director of this crash course is a man of no inconsiderable significance for the future relations between Rome and Dublin. And that man is a priest of the Diocese of Motherwell, Mgr Leo Cushley, Head of the English Language Section of the Secretariat of State.

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