Filipino bishops welcome the designation of Archbishop Charles John Brown as the new apostolic nuncio to the Philippines as they see it as the signal for the appointment of new bishops in the country.
Pope Francis on September 28 has chosen Brown to be his next ambassador to the Philippines. It coincided with the feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint.
The 60-year-old American diplomat will move to Manila from Albania, where he has served as apostolic nuncio since 2017.
Archbishop Brown will succeed Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, who is now the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York.
The country has been without a nuncio after Archbishop Caccia ended his tour of duty in the Philippines in December 2019.
As papal envoy, Brown will represent the Holy See to government authorities in the Philippines, while also playing a crucial role in the selection of bishops.
‘Under the shadow of Peter’
Brown’s appointment was welcomed by Filipino bishops.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who currently serves as the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity, said he is praying that the new representative of Pope Francis would have a successful stint in the country for the benefit of the Filipino faithful.
“This is good news for us that we have a new nuncio. We are happy to welcome him and we pray that he will have a fruitful work here in the country,” Pabillo said.
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said it shows Pope Francis’s concern for the country, especially during the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Santos, the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI), said this proves that Pope Francis is keeping a close watch on the welfare of Filipino clergy.
“It is a very good news for us. The appointment of new nuncio is a welcome relief and comfort for us in this trying and troubling time of Covid-19. With the physical presence of the apostolic nuncio, we are sub umbra Petri [under the shadow of Peter] as if our beloved Holy Father is not only watching us from apart but walking with us and working for us,” Santos said in an interview in Church-run Radio Veritas.
San Pablo Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Clergy, expressed gratitude for the blessing of the new mission of Brown, in coordination with the clergy, in the country.
“It’s a blessing from God that we should be thankful for,” Famadico said.
Novaliches Bishop Roberto Gaa said he believes that the sending of the new representative of the Holy Father only shows the good relations between the Vatican and the Philippines.
“We welcome you [Brown] to this different church. We’re always serving the people and because of this pandemic, there is a new normal, a new way of loving people, a new way of serving people, and we are very thankful [for] having a new nuncio to journey with us to receive guidance from the Pope,” Gaa said.
He added that the appointment of a new papal nuncio is important in determining who would be the next archbishop of Manila, which is currently headed by Pabillo as its administrator.
Retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes explained that one of the important responsibilities of the apostolic nuncio is to recommend priests for the episcopal office to the pope.
Bastes said Brown will be busy upon his arrival in the country to conduct consultations for his recommendations.
“Of course, it will be the priority task of Abp. Brown to facilitate the appointment of a new archbishop of Manila. He will soon do a lot of consultation,” Bastes said.
Pabillo is the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila after former Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was appointed as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the Vatican last year.
Besides the Archdiocese of Manila, other areas, which remain sede vacante, or have vacancies, are the Dioceses of Malaybalay in Bukidnon and Alaminos in Pangasinan, and the Vicarate of San Jose in Mindoro, Taytay in Rizal, and Palawan.
“There are other local churches that also need new bishops. Abp. Brown will be very busy as soon as he arrives in Manila,” Bastes said.
Native of New York
Born in New York, Archbishop Brown was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of New York in May 1989.
Before coming to Rome, he worked as assistant parish priest at St. Brendan’s Church in the Bronx.
In September 2009, he was appointed as adjunct secretary of the International Theological Commission, which helps the Vatican, primarily the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in examining doctrinal questions of major importance.
On November 26, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fr. Brown Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, elevating him to the dignity of archbishop.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Brown Apostolic Nuncio to Albania March 9, 2017.
With CBCP News and PNA
Image credits: Catican Media