April 9, 2016, Saturday — The Nuncio’s Talk
The Witness of the Christian
“Each one of us has a responsibility before God to bring a message of truth into this world, even if it means spending our lives for that very purpose — sometimes silently, but very often today publicly.” —Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Honoree Address at North American College Rector’s Dinner at the North American College in Rome, Italy, on Thursday, April 7, 2016, two days ago
Two days ago, on April 7, the North American College in Rome held its annual Rector’s Dinner, attended by hundreds of guests, many of whom have supported the college financially over the years. It is the largest college for seminarians in Rome, and many of the US bishops have studied at this college.
Two awards were given at the dinner, to an Italian archbishop and to a lay couple: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò (photo below), the Pope’s nuncio (ambassador) to the United States of America for the past five years, and Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Busch of Laguna Hills, California (photo here), who are members of the Papal Foundation and supporters of the Napa Institute, which holds important conferences on issues facing the Church today.
Archbishop Viganò reached the mandatory retirement age for Vatican diplomats in January, three months ago, and has sent his retirement notification to Pope Francis. It is expected that his successor will be officially named quite soon. In this context, it seemed appropriate to publish the talk he gave Thursday, which is likely to be the last major talk of his active diplomatic career.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
Honoree Address at North American College
Rector’s Dinner – April 7, 2016
By Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, Archbishop Myers, Chairman of the Board of Governors, and esteemed members of the Board, Father Peter Harman, newly appointed Rector of this Pontifical North American College, devoted faculty and staff, cherished alumni and benefactors, especially our distinguished honorees, Mr. and Mrs. Tim and Steph Busch, special guests of the College, and in particular my brother priests and seminarians who form a vital part of this venerable institution…
I am before you all tonight as one who has come full circle in my particular relationship with you as the Holy Father’s personal representative to the United States.
For it was here in this College that I came in the Fall of 2011 as a special guest of the then Rector, Bishop-elect James Checchio, to honor the former Rector, the then newly elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
This event had coincided with my own appointment as the Papal Nuncio on the Feast of the North American Martyrs, the Jesuit Isaac Jogues and his companions.
The term “North American” identified the very place where I would have my mission, where I had hoped to bring my experience of faith inspired by those outstanding witnesses who had gone to the New World to evangelize and proclaim the Good News.
As I address you now, I am coming to the end of my mission as a Nuncio in the United States, where I spent four and a half years, and I want to express my deep gratitude for this very significant award which I happily share with Mr. and Mrs. Busch, whom I came to know during my tenure, appreciating all that they have done to enhance the life and growth of the American Church, from their native California and all across the United States, as well as the Holy See itself.
As everyone knows, the past years have been very challenging for the Church in America, but at the same time there have been a number of significant events, like the very successful visit of Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was not only able to receive such an enthusiastic welcome in the three cities he visited, but also to be very impressed and filled with great hope for the future of the Church, in particular in meeting the seminarians and novices at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
It meant so much for me to hear His Holiness, in beginning his talk to the US Congress, describe America, in the words of the National Anthem, as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Now, perhaps more than ever, this phrase should be something we continue to live for and pray for – that the United States of America will protect our freedom, especially our religious liberty, as well as respect the human right to conscientious objection, and that we will be courageous in always defending the freedom to put our Catholic faith into practice without fear.
Each one of us, as Blessed Cardinal Newman said, “has a mission in this life.”
Each one of us has a responsibility before God to bring a message of truth into this world, even if it means spending our lives for that very purpose—sometimes silently, but very often today publicly.
This is an age when we need great courage—courage to stand up for the Truth, even when we are not understood, or persecuted when we are understood. We need to be strong in the face of evil.
This is the prophetic role we have received in Baptism. Just read the Holy Father Francis’s words in his homily this very morning at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. “La testimonianza cristiana ha la stessa strada di Gesù, dare la vita.” In un modo o in un altro, il cristiano “si gioca la vita nella vera testimonianza.” (“The Christian witness follows the same path Jesus took, giving one’s life.” In one way or another, the Christian “risks his or her entire life in bearing true witness.”)
The North American College, in these invaluable years of formation for leadership in the Church of America, teaches us how to be strong, to be virtuous, to be valiant witnesses to the message of Jesus: “The Truth will make you free.”
This is the great mission entrusted to the North American College.
During my visits to many dioceses in the United States, I met some young priests, alumni of the College, having returned to their dioceses, who reminded me that I met them at my first visit to the College.
I encourage, therefore, the seminarians of today to take advantage of their time here, so as to carry with them the great spirit that has been given to them in Rome, as well as to cherish the unique opportunity to grow in their love for Christ and their devotion to the Holy Father. They will be in my prayers.
Once again I am very grateful for the Rector’s Award that has been given to me with no particular merit on my part.
Tonight’s celebration will remain in my memory with fond affection for each one of you.
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What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.