THE Pope's representative in Ireland has lashed out at what he says is a "negative" view of the Catholic Church here – and believes it is in much better shape than many believe.
Papal Nuncio Charles Brown
called on Irish Catholics "not to be cowed into silence by the pressure
of the scandals and negative media reports".
He continued: "In spite of everything, there is still a bedrock of faith in Ireland."
Next month, the nuncio will celebrate his first year in Ireland.
The Vatican is keen to repair the church's image here after the damaging child-abuse scandals of recent years.
his arrival, Archbishop Brown has dispensed with the traditional
background role of nuncios in Ireland and stepped firmly into the public
eye by travelling extensively throughout the country and not shying
away from media engagement.
He said: "I believe it is very
important for the nuncio to be very visible and available to everybody .
. . so I wanted to listen to everybody and to see for myself what is
The 52-year-old New Yorker, who was interviewed for
'The Irish Catholic' newspaper, said he was optimistic about the future
of the Catholic Church in Ireland and insisted that this was based on
what he had seen on the ground.
Archbishop Brown said: "If we listen to certain segments of the media, all we get is an unending avalanche of negativity. But
if you go out to parishes and talk to people and meet the priests and
see what is happening, you get an entirely different picture. You get a
picture of vitality, of great courage and great hope."
He added that priests remained key to the future of the Catholic Church here.
"There are challenges obviously but there is also vitality and there is faith here," he said.
"People believe, and that is fundamental. If I can nourish that and help make it flourish, I will have done my job."
The church will face a renewed challenge in 2013 as the debate on abortion legislation continues to rage.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has revealed that he has already received a personal threat linked to the abortion controversy.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady, used his Christmas message to call for a campaign on the abortion issue.
a time when some are telling the church to stay out of public
discourse, the nuncio said people should not "retreat into a very
He said he would like to see Catholics "not afraid to express their faith in the public square".