New Irish American Papal Nuncio says he has ‘a lot to learn’ about the Irish
Praises Dublin Archbishop Martin as ‘admirable’ on issue of child abuse
Ireland’s new Papal Nuncio has admitted that he knows little or nothing about the country – and is not charged with leading any reform of the Irish church.
Irish-American Archbishop Charles Brown has told the Irish Times, in a fascinating interview, that he has "a lot to learn" about Ireland and its people despite a distant link to the country.
Even with a mother whose maiden name was Murphy and a great-grandfather called O’Brien, Archbishop Brown admits his experience in Ireland relates to two brief visits as a student – although they did leave a lasting impression.
He told journalist Paddy Agnew that one trip to Wicklow to visit an American friend in the early 1980s, while studying theology at Oxford University, proved fascinating after he arrived on the boat from Holyhead with no idea how to get to the village of Roundwood.
As snow began to fall, the young theologian was offered a lift by a woman travelling with a small baby who drove him practically to his destination.
For Manhattan-born Archbishop Brown, someone whose first parish was that of St Brendan in the Bronx, this was a sharp culture shock.
“Can you imagine, what other place in the world would a woman with her little baby stop to pick up a hitchhiker, the beauty of the thing, the generosity,” said the cleric.
Now 52, Archbishop Brown also told the paper that his surname is German, from Braun, and that he is coming to Ireland to work with the Irish church at a time when relations with the State are at an all time low after recent clerical sex abuse scandals.
“My brief is to learn and to help,” he explained to the paper. “Let us not exaggerate. The nuncio is a representative of the Holy See on the ground there. It is not that, in any sense, he is in control of the church in Ireland.
“It is the bishops of Ireland who are in control of the church in Ireland.”
One advantage Archbishop Brown will bring to Ireland with him is a close working relationship with Pope Benedict after 10 years together at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“I know him, he knows me. I worked with him closely for 10 years, I travelled with him, I worked hard for him. He trusts me, for better or for worse,” said Archbishop Brown of the Pope.
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