Administrative work can sometimes be unappreciated. But when it is carried out with tact, vision and diplomacy, it can bring Christian charity to bear on the careful work of organization that, in the end, produces many fruits for the Church and society. And during 2014, especially in Minsk, Belarus, during a high-level conference between Catholic and Orthodox representatives to discuss the faith and secularism in Europe today, a young monsignor from Portugal distinguished himself for his unfailing calm, Christian friendliness, and plain old hard work to ensure that Catholic-Orthodox dialogue in 2014 continued forward on an even keel despite many obstacles. For these reasons, we are pleased to honor Monsignor Duarte da Cunha as one of our “Top Ten” persons of 2014.
On October 4, 2013, in Bratislava, Mons. Duarte da Cunha (his complete name is Duarte Nuno Queiroz de Barros da Cunha) was voted unanimously to serve as Secretary General of the Conference of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) for a second five-year term (2013-2018) by the presidents of Europe’s various national bishops’ conferences gathered in Bratislava for their annual Plenary Assembly.
Monsignor da Cunha was previously elected for the same position during the 2008 Plenary Assembly in Budapest, to succeed Mgr. Aldo Giordano, currently the Special Envoy-Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
In this way, the CCEE President, Cardinal Péter Erdö, together with Vice-Presidents Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Msgr. Józef Michalik, and the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, expressed their appreciation for the work carried out over the previous five years by da Cunha, and thanked him for his willingness to serve for a second term. The assembly also thanked the Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, for his generosity in allowing one of his priests to serve the Church in Europe.
Fr. Duarte da Cunha, a priest of the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Lisbon (Portugal), was born on June 1, 1968 and ordained priest in 1993. After secondary school he gained a Baccalaureate in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon. He then attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and gained a Licentiate in Theology (1995) and then, in 1998, a Doctorate in Theology with a thesis on “Friendship in the Work of St. Thomas Aquinas.”
Among his numerous academic activities, Fr. Duarte da Cunha was, from 2000-2004, Professor of Church Social Doctrine in the Faculty of Humanities, and Professor of Faith and Theology in the Faculty of Theology, at the Catholic University of Portugal.
At the same University he was President of a Commission entrusted with the task of establishing the Institute of Family Sciences (2002-2005).
He also taught a variety of subjects (Ecclesiology, Fundamental Theology, Eschatology and Mariology) at the Catholic seminary in East Timor between 2002 and 2005.
In Lisbon, he worked as General Secretary to the Patriarch of Lisbon (1997-2000) and Assistant in the Office for the Family (1997-2007).
From 1998 to 2008, he was also a parish priest in Lisbon.
In 1998, da Cunha founded and is now the President of the “Ponto de Apoio à Vida” Association, a private body aimed at helping and supporting pregnant women in difficult situations. Since 1998 he has been chaplain to the “Ajuda de Berço,” a private institution which accepts abandoned babies.
He speaks fluently Italian, English, French and Spanish.
In his work with the European bishops, one of his major tasks has been to guide the work of the Orthodox-Catholic Forum, which he has done with great skill and tact. For all these reasons, we honor him as one of our “Top Ten” of 2014.