18 January 2020

Homily of Archbishop Brown, Papal Nuncio, Oct. 2012

Rekindling Faith The Principal Challenge For Church Says Nuncio

By Camilla McLoughlin

THE Papal Nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown visited Tullamore on Saturday 6th. Oct. 2012 to coincide with the novena to St Therese of Lisieux. Looking fit and trim from his three runs a week in the Phoenix Park, Archbishop Brown who was born in 1959 will celebrate his birthday this month. A native of New York the Archbishop was appointed Papal Nuncio last November by Pope Benedict XV1 and has been in Ireland since January 31st. 'I love Ireland and have been trying to get outside of Dublin to see the rest of the country, which I am doing pretty regularly. I still have a lot to see there are some big lacunae I haven't visited yet like Belfast, Kerry and Derry. The welcome has been so so warm on every front and the government are very nice to me' he explains.

How long will you be here for? 'There is no determined period as long as the Pope and the Holy See keeps me here. There have been Nuncios that have served as little as two years and two have been here for as many as 20 years.'

What is the definition of a Papal Nuncio? 'A Nuncio is the Ambassador of the Holy See to a country, just like other countries have an Ambassador. My job is two-fold to represent the Holy See to the Irish Government and the other part is to help the church in Ireland. The non-governmental side of what I do is to be a liaison or an assistance to the Bishops of Ireland in their work in the church in Ireland a connection between the Bishops of Ireland and the Holy See.'

What do you see as the biggest challenge for the Catholic Church not only in Ireland but the rest of the world?

'The Holy Father Pope Benedict has called for a Year of Faith which begins on October 11th the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatical Council. And why did he call it? Because we're in a crisis of faith in our age and that is the great challenge. Faith and belief in Christ and his church and the power of his sacraments and the life of the world to come heaven, hell, purgatory, grace, all of these things have declined in the last 50 years. I think that is the principle challenge to rekindle faith and a belief that life is more than what we see. There is a spiritual dimension to life that goes beyond the material dimension and the Catholic Church is the way in which we can authentically come in touch with that spiritual dimension.' How will you go about rekindling that faith? 'The rekindling of the faith is far beyond the efforts of any one person certainly some newly arrived poor nuncio, It is the project of the church in general. But having said that, what we need to do is to challenge people to think about their existence, about the way they are living and ask the tough questions about whether the way in which we live our lives is truly satisfying to the human heart. I think the answer to that is no it isn't. I think there is a great dissatisfaction out there in just watching television all the time or going on vacation all the time. It doesn't necessarily bring us the joy that we're made for and it's to help people to recognise that and say wait a second, I'm made for something more, the fact that I'm here on earth can not be satisfied or explained simply by living a superficial life. So to make people ask the question is the first thing, because I think we're sort of anaesthetised or drugged in a sense into not asking those questions. Just kind of going from minor pleasure to minor pleasure, vacation to vacation and never really asking those deep questions. I think if we begin to ask those questions and people begin to look, then the answer is the person of Jesus Christ who comes to us in and through his Catholic Church.'

Is that satisfaction not available outside the Catholic Church through other faiths? 'I think that God draws all human beings to himself and gives us the ability to recognise his presence and different people do have different paths to the Lord and to the realisation of their own destiny, their own reason for living. So I think there can be other paths, at the same time I think that the Catholic Church gives us a true path to God. I wouldn't be a priest if I didn't believe that.'

What about people of other faiths, are they all expected to join the Catholic Church? 'I think the big struggle in our modern era is not the problem of conflict between faiths' but the conflict between faith and no faith, between faith and atheism or faith and despair. So for me that's the major question. The question as to how in God's plan other religious fit is a huge mystery that the church and theologians have pondered for many centuries and it's hard to give an easy answer to that. You look around and you see people of great sincerity and great spiritual integrity living different faiths. I think initiatives that help us to come in contact with the faith especially initiatives that transmit the faith in its fulness in it's radically and its challenging elements are really powerful.'

What about other people then who feel on the margins of the church, who don't feel that welcome in the church, those in second relationships who are unable to receive Holy Communion, members of the gay community and many women who pray, but they don't feel that welcome? 'I think the people who are alienated or distant from the church are many and they are distant for many different reasons so it's hard to generalise and say here's what we need to do to reach that range of different people with different stories. What I would not say, and it's what many people would like us to say is that - "Lets change the Catholic teaching and then we'll fill the churches." First of all in terms of Catholic teaching and Catholic doctrine the church in a sense is the receiver of Catholic teaching from the Lord she is not an entity that on the basis of popular vote or changing social views, changes or manipulates that truth that has been received. It is a truth that the Lord entrusted to the church so on many of those issues the Church really isn't free or isn't able to even if she wanted to to change them. I would also say with all humility that those other Christian bodies that have tried to adapt their message more and more to make it conform with the values of the world paradoxically become less and less interesting to people and less and less attractive to people. So when people say change the church's teaching then we'll fill the churches look to your left and to your right at Christian churches that have done that and ask yourselves have they filled their church are they growing with leaps and bounds the answer is not yes.'

But is it just about filling the churches? 'It isn't at all but one hears the argument that if we change the teaching on whatever, then we will be much more successful.'

What about the argument that Jesus was always with the outcasts. 'That's absolutely true and calling them to follow him, but there is a message of conversion in the Christian following of the Lord, a message of sacrifice of conversion and change. You are totally right the Lord is with the most marginalised because it's the most marginalised that know they need a saviour to lead them and help them. People who are perfect and cold don't need a saviour.'

Have you ever any doubts about God and why he allows such suffering? 'Every human being has doubts, in a sense when we see human suffering and degradation that seems on a human level to be so completely hopeless and cycles of suffering, then it's hard to understand why God allows that, but I think for a Christian two things are important one is that we can't completely figure out God, we can't put God into our own boxes and categories. God and his ways are always going to exceed our ability to understand. So we can look at the way things are and ask how can God allow this? But at the same time we have to hold our faith and say I believe that God is here in the midst of this suffering even though I can't understand it at all. The second thing is to look at Jesus on the Cross. He is the paradigm of innocent suffering which then becomes redemptive for all of humanity and becomes the greatest gift for all humanity. The unjust suffering of the innocent man of Jesus of Nazareth then becomes the greatest source of good for all humanity. So in some ways we believe that God can bring good out of suffering, even though suffering itself is always terrible.'

Who is God for you or how would you describe God? 'God is Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is God made man. To me there is no way to know God except in and through the person of Jesus Christ. He reveals God to me, he shows me he is the way, he is the truth, he is the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, so he who sees me sees the Father. I see him in the person of Jesus Christ and in trying to be his disciple, his follower, I experience God, I don't try to create a vision of God independently of the Lord.' Archbishop Brown celebrated the 7.30 p.m. mass on Saturday evening and was presented with a Penal Cross afterwards.'