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 Dublin.
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. The 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.