The Appointment of a new Papal Nuncio to Ireland

Association of Catholic Priests Statement

on the Appointment of the Papal Nuncio

Saturday,  13 May 2017
We welcome Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and we wish him well in his new responsibilities.
One of his first tasks will be the appointment of a number of bishops, including to dioceses vacant for some years. Our hope is that those chosen will reflect the very different style of leadership being modelled by Pope Francis.
The words and actions of Pope Francis challenge the Irish Church to reflect the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and give us great courage and hope for the future. It is no secret that under the last Nuncio, Francis’ vision of an open Church was not reflected in the appointment of bishops.
During that time there has been, with one or two exceptions, a clear lack of leadership from Irish bishops, even a marked reluctance to follow the example of Pope Francis.
We believe that this is due to the fact that for more than a generation candidates for bishoprics were taken only from a small section of priests ­ safe, compliant, ultra-orthodox men.
While these are admirable in many respects the men lacked the vision, the energy, and the leadership qualities to engage the hearts and minds of our people and to engage competently and persuasively in the public forum.
Our reluctant conclusion, but a conclusion obvious in present-day Ireland, is that in the appointment of bishops in recent years, men with either vision or leadership ability were largely excluded from consideration. Analytical and critical perspectives have not been welcome in the Irish Church and recent history illustrates the high price our Church has paid for that overly cautious approach to bishops’ appointments.
We wish Archbishop Okolo every blessing in his work and look forward to meeting him in due course.

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  1. I’ll be honest and say I feel disappointed with the statement of the ACPI. For me, it makes a disapproving judgment on the recently appointed bishops to Irish sees.
    I can sense that the new papal nuncio may be reluctant to meet with members of the ACPI if this is the attitude of the association that is being presented to him….. we’ll watch this space….

  2. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    This is certainly a challenging statement but one that reinforces the type of Church Pope Francis is seeking. Engaging hearts and minds while being analytical and critical is a fine line to walk but a path that must be taken by one and all. It seems Pope Francis has a high opinion of him since “damage control” now appears prominently on his CV since replacing the recalled Wesolowski in the Dominican Republic.
    If he is properly doing damage control (and damage control is needed after Brown’s tenure), he’ll have no reason to not meet with the ACP – in fact, it may be the very reason he is here.
    He certainly doesn’t come off as discriminate.

  3. Hi Lloyd @2, sorry to say but of all the burning issues facing the new Papal Nuncio to Ireland, meeting with the ACPI will not be one of them….
    I think Archbishop Brown did a great job going into the communities and parishes of Ireland. Did any other ambassador of any other country spend as much time meeting the people of Ireland?

  4. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Like Frank@1, I’m sure the ACP can do better than that in welcoming ‘one of our own’ as first African Papal Nuncio to Ireland. There’s a century of solid Irish missionary work – pastoral, infrastructural, educational – by Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers and others behind this man and his appointment to Cabra. If the ‘Apostolic Succession’ listing still means anything, Archbishop Okolo’s antecedents run straight back to Cardinal Paul Cullen through Cardinal Francis Arinze (Onitsha & Rome), Ab Charles Heerey CSSp (Onitsha & Oldcastle), Ab Joseph Shanahan CSSp (Onitsha & Borrisoleigh), +Denis Kelly (Ross) and Ab Thomas Croke (Cashel). Not a bad list of forebears, and worth remembering.
    Ab Jude Thaddeus Okolo is, of course, of the post-Irish generation of clergy in Eastern Nigeria. He would have been only a lad of 11 in 1967, the year of Ab Heerey’s death and also of the outbreak of the Biafran War. It is worth noting that Okolo was born in Kano, the Northern commercial capital. Anti-Igbo tension and killings there in 1966 led to many Igbos returning to the East and was at least one of the spurs to Biafra’s secession over the next four years. It would be interesting to know whether the Okolo family were part of the move back East in 1996-7 and whether the young Okolo enrolled at Christ the King College, Onitsha, founded by Ab Heerey in 1933. Certainly his first eighteen years after ordination by Arinze was as a priest of Onitsha archdiocese.
    Perhaps, when Ab Okolo takes up his role later in the summer, ACP may be in a position to issue a more appreciative welcome – rather than just putting down a marker to keep the new Nuncio on his Franciscan toes?

  5. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Oops! Correction to my 2nd paragraph above. The sentence “It would be interesting to know whether the Okolo family were part of the move back East in 1996-7” should read “1966-67”.

  6. Rather than expressing any negativity towards the statement of the ACPI, surely the question that needs to be asked is whether it accurately expresses the present reality or not. I know what I think ! And, fair play to the ACPI
    PS I think we should just keep with our usual ACP, by the way.

  7. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Hi Frank @ 3,
    I’m sorry but I know nothing of his agenda but I’m certainly aware that Pope Francis didn’t decline a visit from Sean McDonagh last year, despite Charles Brown turning his nose up at the ACP’s efforts at bringing our Church into the 3rd millennium.
    The ACP’s statement is a statement of truth, as they and many see it, with a list of hopes and wishes for now and the future. It is realistic especially since Brown’s judgement was essentially that this group did not exist.
    I’m usually very proud of North American exports but I’m certainly not supportive of the decisions of this one. I guess we shall see if he possesses the courage to speak to the ACP. Here is hoping he does.

  8. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    And Frank @ 3,
    Where the ACP has the support of so many, did Charles J. Brown happen to provide a disclaimer to the people of Ireland that he would not formally communicate with any of the ACP’s supporters either or should we take his refusal to meet with the ACP as a signal as such. This is so political but politics can’t save us now, to quote Girard.
    Certainly not the inverted-pyramid-era behaviour Pope Francis recommends, right?

  9. I agree with you @4 Eddie. It will be interesting to see how the Irish Church/people react and accept an African Papal Nuncio. Ireland can be very proud of the work that Irish missionaries, clerical, religious and lay have completed in service of the Church.
    The influence of Ireland on Nigeria has been enormous and I’ve no doubt that the new papal nuncio will acknowledge this long and lasting record of the Irish Church.

  10. We don’t know of course.. but anecdotally we are hearing that candidates are declining a call to be a Bishop in Ireland. I’m a friend and classmate of one of the “safe, compliant, ultra-orthodox” recently ordained bishops and my heart goes out to him. A friend I may be- but I see all our human faults, his and mine included. I think we need to be a little kinder, less waspish and more encouraging to one another. We are witnessing the end of the Cullen Church. Something new is emerging and I think we need to live as positively as we can this transitional phase.
    Some portrayed our outgoing Nuncio move to Tirana, Albania from Ireland as akin to a punishment which was a bit laughably hiberno-centric. Part of me also suspects that Archbishop Brown may be happier in Albania, where the Church is not treated like a toxic entity as it seems to be in Ireland and is a well-regarded minority group.

  11. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Tom @ 10, Charles Brown certainly deserved to be reprimanded however the toxicity you describe that perhaps clings to the Church in Ireland might have something to do with an overarching clericalism that somehow follows a demographic of its clergy wherever they may go.
    Believing the Church is a type of hierarchical corporation where communication is an option and not the most important aspect of its being is as toxic as it gets. He just might be happier in Albania but whatever trepidation he felt concerning the ACP will certainly follow him.

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