Youngest Papal Nuncio served as parish priest in the Bronx
Published 01/02/2012 | 05:00
ARCHBISHOP Charles J Brown is the youngest Papal Nuncio to have been appointed here.
The 52-year-old is also the first whose first language is English -- most of his predecessors having been Italian speakers.
His appointment is being viewed with optimism by the Irish Catholic Church, which has been severely weakened by abuse scandals, falling Mass attendance and declining vocations.
But he has already made it clear that he wants to "help" the church here rather than impose a Vatican-inspired view upon it. He has stated clearly that it is the bishops of Ireland who are in control of the church in Ireland.
He has only been in Ireland twice before -- on short holidays in the early 1980s before he was ordained a priest. He has spoken warmly of how he got lifts while hitch-hiking from Dublin to friends in Roundwood, Co Wicklow.
He has been in touch with senior bishops to get briefings from them in advance of his arrival here.
The new nuncio grew up in Manhattan in New York and his surname is an Anglicised version of the German Braun.
He was ordained in St Patrick's Cathedral in New York in 1989 and then served in the Parish of Saint Brendan, in the Bronx, for the next two years.
He was popular in New York, with the current Archbishop Timothy M Dolan giving him a strong reference when reports of his Irish appointment emerged late last year.
"He's a young, vibrant, very theologically savvy, but pastorally sensitive guy," he said.
Dr Brown has a close friendship with Pope Benedict, who ordained him as Papal Nuncio last year. He worked closely with the Pope -- then Cardinal Ratzinger -- at the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith. That is the Vatican body that deals most closely with issue of clerical abuse. He has said that he was dealing with "doctrinal" issues rather than specific sex abuse cases during his time there.
A key task for him will be to convince both the Irish Government and Irish public to trust the Vatican's assurances that it is as committed as people such as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to dealing with clerical sexual abuse.