The Pope’s representative in Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown is to leave to take up a new appointment in coming weeks.
The move was
confirmed by the Vatican this morning.
Archbishop Brown – who is credited with bringing a more open style to
the role and helping rebuild fragile relations between Ireland and the
Holy See – is to become the new Papal Nuncio to Albania.
It is part of
the normal rotation of Vatican diplomats.
The Pope has not yet named a successor, meaning just 17-months ahead
of an expected visit by Pope Francis, there is no Papal Nuncio in
The US-born prelate (57) was hand-picked by Pope Benedict XVI after
relations between Dublin and Rome hit an all-time-low after the
Taoiseach’s controversial criticism of the Vatican in a Dáil speech.
row saw the government take the unprecedented decision to close the
Irish Embassy to the Vatican.
Archbishop Brown presented his credentials to President Michael D.
Higgins in February 2012, and is credited by many – including senior
politicians – with being part of paving the way for the reopening of the
Vatican Embassy in January 2014.
During more than five years in Ireland, Dr Brown spoke warmly about
his Irish-American roots and embraced the pastoral side of his role as
Papal Nuncio which saw him make visits to parishes, communities and
schools in every diocese in Ireland.
He has also been an enthusiastic supporter of youth and catechetical
movements within the Church in Ireland.
The archbishop has also been
more open to the media that his predecessors and recently featured in
the RTÉ series The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne.
He has not been without his critics.
The Association of Catholic
Priests (ACP) – which is campaigning for liberal reforms within the
Church – has criticised the fact that it has been unable to secure a
meeting with the archbishop.
He is expected to take up residence in the Albanian capital Tirana in
coming weeks. One of his last public functions in Ireland is expected
to be a Mass televised by RTÉ on St Patrick’s Day from Newman’s
University Church on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
Pending the appointment of a new Nuncio, the Deputy Head of Mission
of the Apostolic Nunciature in Dublin Msgr Piotr Tarnawski will serve as
Vatican chargé d’affaires. He has worked in Dublin since October.