THE NEW papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles John Brown, has pledged to do everything in his power to “solidify and strengthen” as well as “confirm and deepen” the relationship between the Holy See and Ireland.
Presenting his letters of credence to President Michael D Higgins in a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, Archbishop Brown said Pope Benedict had asked him to convey his personal esteem to the President as well as his “best wishes and sincere affection” for the Irish people.
The conciliatory message from the smiling nuncio came after a period of prolonged tension in the relationship between the two states, culminating in the Government’s decision last November to close the Irish embassy to the Vatican, citing reasons of cost.
“It is an honour, indeed a source of joy, for me to bring you heartfelt greetings from his holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” the nuncio said, reading a prepared statement.
“The holy father has asked me to convey in a particular way his esteem for you as President of this great nation as well as his best wishes and sincere affection for all the people of Ireland. His holiness assures you, and all the Irish people, of remembrance in his prayers. I am very pleased to present to you the letters of credence by which Pope Benedict XVI accredits me as Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland and to deliver the letter of recall of my predecessor, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, who is now serving the Holy See in another nation. At this very significant moment in my mission here in Ireland, I wish to assure you that it is Pope Benedict’s fervent desire that I, as his representative, will do everything in my power to solidify and strengthen the relations between the Holy See and Ireland. These diplomatic relations have enjoyed fruitful and uninterrupted stability since 1929 and they testify to the enduring relationship between the people of this nation and the successor of the Apostle Peter, stretching back some 1,500 years. In requesting your kind support and that of the Government of Ireland in the discharge of my mission I pledge my wholehearted efforts to confirm and deepen this mutually beneficial and historic relationship,” the nuncio concluded.
President Higgins, in reply, asked the nuncio to “convey to the Pope my best wishes and the best wishes of the people of Ireland”.
“You are right in saying that the relationship between Ireland and the Holy See goes back to 1929 and there are many areas of international policy in which we have a shared view, areas of development, poverty, disarmament, and these have been fruitful for us,” he added.
Mr Higgins wished the archbishop “every happiness and success, both in your capacity as representative of the Holy See and also as dean of the diplomatic corps”.
Concluding with the words, “May I introduce you now to some people who will be of assistance to you in your work,” the President introduced him to Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who initiated the decision at Cabinet to close the Vatican embassy.