During a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Msgr. Charles Brown and Msgr. Marek Solczynski, two new Vatican diplomats, were ordained by Benedict XVI with the rank of archbishop
Celebrating the feast of the Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI ordained two new bishops: American Archbishop Charles J. Brown, a longtime official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who is the new nuncio to Ireland; and Polish Archbishop Marek Solczynski, the new nuncio to Georgia and Armenia.
The two men swore their fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church and lay prostrate on an ornate rug on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica as the Litany of Saints was chanted. Then they knelt before Pope Benedict, who laid his hands on their heads and ordained them bishops.
He anointed their heads with chrism oil, gave them the book of the Gospels, slipped a ring on their fingers and gave each a miter and pastoral staff.
After the Mass, Archbishop Brown told Catholic News Service, “The entire experience was one of great joy and consolation for me. I was certainly aware of my unworthiness for the episcopate and my limitations, but especially when the Pope laid his hands on my head, I had a tremendous sense of the strength of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the saints.”
The experience, he said, “gives me total confidence that I can do something beautiful for God.”
In his homily at the Mass, the Pope looked at the figure of the Three Kings, the wise men who set out from the East in search of Jesus, and drew comparisons between them and the mission to which the new bishops are called.
Like the Magi, he said, “the bishop, too, must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more.”
A bishop must be attentive and watchful, recognizing the gentle voice of God and able to discern the truth, the Pope said.
Like the wise men, who probably were made fun of for following a star in search of the promised king, a bishop must “be filled with the courage of humility, not asking what prevailing opinion says about him, but following the criterion of God’s truth and taking his stand accordingly,” he said.
“And he must have the humility to bend down before the God who made himself so tangible and so simple that he contradicts our foolish pride in its reluctance to see God so close and so small,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict said scholars and scientists have debated what kind of light or star the Three Kings were following — a constellation, a supernova or a comet — but whatever it was, he said, “the great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself.”
“He is, as it were, the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world,” the Pope said.
The job of the new bishops, he said, is to lead people on the path to discovering the light that is Christ.
The appointment of Archbishop Brown as nuncio to Ireland comes at a very delicate moment in Vatican-Irish relations and at a time of deep crisis for the Catholic Church in Ireland as the Church and state continued to deal with the clerical sex abuse crisis.
In July, the Vatican recalled its previous nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, after Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and others sharply criticized the Vatican’s handling of abuse cases. Then, in early November, the Irish government announced it was closing its embassy to the Holy See for economic reasons, although keeping diplomatic relations open.
Archbishop Brown, whose appointment was announced in late November, is a 52-year-old priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Although not a career Vatican diplomat, he has worked since 1994 in the doctrinal Congregation, which was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger until his election as pope in 2005. The Congregation now holds primary responsibility for reviewing the handling of clerical sex abuse cases and dealing with accused priests.
As nuncios, the two archbishops will act as the Holy See’s ambassadors and also will serve as liaisons with the local Catholic communities.