Before making a little bit of Irish Catholic Church history in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast last night, Dr Brown said he was “very pleased” by the announcement.
“It is an excellent decision for the people of Ireland and will be beneficial to Ireland in making its distinctive and important contribution to international relations. We are all grateful to those who worked so hard to make this day possible,” he said.
It was an additionally significant day for the American diplomat as he also became the first papal envoy to deliver an address in a Protestant cathedral on the island.
Dr Brown spoke in the Church of Ireland cathedral in Belfast as part of the current week of prayer for Christian unity. He delivered his ecumenism address on the theme: “Is Christ divided?”
According to church sources, the attendance in the cathedral of Dr Brown was also notable in that it is unusual for papal nuncios to travel across the Border, notwithstanding that, similar to the Protestant churches, the Catholic Church operates on an all-Ireland basis.
Dr Brown, who was joined in the cathedral by senior figures from the Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist churches, thanked the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev John Mann, for his invitation.
“It is a joy and indeed a great privilege for me to stand before you this evening in this historic and beautiful St Anne’s Cathedral,” he said.
Dr Brown said he was sure the pioneers of the ecumenical movement would be very pleased he was speaking in St Anne’s.