Enda Kenny’s speech attacking Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican may have ruffled a few feathers in the Holy See, but Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown is mending fences if the reaction in political circles is anything to go by. The Nuncio received a rapturous welcome during a recent private visit to the Dáil. TDs from all parties took to their feet and gave Dr Brown a sustained round of applause after his presence was noted by officials. But it nearly didn’t happen.
Archbishop Brown, a former co-worker of Pope Benedict, was hand-picked by the Pontiff for the sensitive job following Mr Kenny’s speech and the decision of the Vatican to formally recall Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza. Since his arrival in Ireland early this year, he has engaged in quiet diplomacy meetings with senior politicians and policymakers.
It was one such meeting in Leinster House on Wednesday of last week which turned into an impromptu ovation for Archbishop Brown. He had been in the house meeting some backbench TDs when a division was called meaning that deputies had to quickly go to the chamber to vote. The papal nuncio was shown to the public gallery where he happily took his seat to observe the vote. However, a sharp-eyed member of the Seanad noted that the papal nuncio was there and informed the head usher who immediately swung Dáil protocol into action. The nuncio was immediately escorted to the ‘Distinguished Visitors Gallery’ when he took up a seat next to the Government benches. The Chief Whip Paul Kehoe quickly sent a note to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle Michael Kitt who promptly made an announcement that Archbishop Brown was present. TDs from all parties and Independents rose to their feet and began a period of sustained applause for the nuncio. When Deputy Kitt suspended the sitting a few minutes later – at almost 9.30 at night – deputies queued up to greet the nuncio.
One enthusiastic TD told The Irish Catholic that the reaction was “very warm”. He said “people were delighted to see Archbishop Brown in the house and taking an interest and going to the trouble of meeting people”.
Another TD said that “Archbishop Brown, by his personality and demeanour, is working very hard to re-establish warm relations between the Vatican and the Irish State”.
The Irish Catholic also understands that Dr Brown and Mr Kenny have a good personal rapport with both men feeling at ease in one another’s company.