Pope picks US priest as new Irish Papal Nuncio

Pope picks US priest as new Irish Papal Nuncio

Pope picks US priest as new Irish Papal Nuncio

Pope Benedict XVI has tapped New Yorker Msgr Charlie Brown to be the new Papal Nuncio to Ireland according to sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is a significant move and the first native English-speaker to be appointed the Pope’s representative in Ireland since Archbishop Joseph McGeough in 1967.

The Government reportedly gave the official agrément for the appointment of Msgr Brown at this week’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

51 year-old Msgr Brown is an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and crucially has never served as a member of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. This is an important signal that Pope Benedict wants the new Nuncio to concentrate more on ecclesiastical affairs rather than the diplomatic relationship between Ireland and the Holy See.

He will play a key role in implementing the reforms of the Church in Ireland and selecting new bishops.

There has been criticism of many of the nuncios who were appointed to Ireland in recent years for spending too much time on the diplomatic circuit and not enough time on the Church.

Msgr Brown has served at the CDF since 1994 so has been involved in preparations for three ad limina meetings of Irish bishops making their seven-yearly reports to the Holy See. As such, he is acutely aware of the issues facing the Church in Ireland and will be familiar with the members of the Irish hierarchy. In addition, the CDF is also the Vatican department that since 2001 has dealt exclusively with issues in relation to clerical sexual abuse so Msgr Brown will have a keen awareness of the issue and how devastating it has been for victims and the reputation and morale of the Church in Ireland.

The fact that the Vatican has gone for a non-diplomat rather than a mandarin from the Section for Relations With States of the Secretariat of State in Rome should also be read as an indication that the Pope wants the new nuncio to take a keen interest in the internal affairs of the Church. This will be particularly important when it comes to the appointment of bishops and the implementation of the report of the Apostolic Visitation inquiry into the Church in Ireland.

It is also likely that Pope Benedict XVI was personally involved in this decision since Msgr Brown is known to the Pope from the former’s tenure as Prefect of the CDF until his election in 2005.

Msgr Brown, who holds graduate degrees from Oxford University, the University of Toronto and the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo in Rome, is expected to take up his appointment early in the New Year after he has been consecrated as an archbishop.