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Nuncio: Evangelization, mercy, encounter mark pope’s first four years

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Evangelization, mercy, encounter and accompaniment are the hallmarks of the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said March 15.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis' papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“First and foremost, Pope Francis is committed to the work of evangelization. The main role of the church is to evangelize, to receive the gospel and offer it to the world,” he said in a conversation in New York with Jesuit Father Matthew F. Malone, president and editor-in-chief of America Media.

“The raison d’etre of the church is evangelization. It’s not a business, it’s not an organization or an association for the defense of Jesus, but a group called to announce God’s presence to humanity,” Archbishop Pierre said.

At a meeting of cardinals before the conclave that elected him pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio reflected on the challenges Pope Benedict’s successor should address. Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ handwritten notes from his talk were a blueprint for his papacy.

In them, Pope Francis underscored the importance of evangelizing with apostolic zeal and going to the peripheries of sin, pain, injustice and misery to reach people. He warned that when the church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and sick. He wrote, “The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-reference and a kind of theological narcissism.”

Cardinal Bergoglio said the next pope, “must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

“The church is a continuation of Christ in the world,” Archbishop Pierre said. And the pope continues to insist it is time not to rest, but to go to the many peripheries to be God’s presence to the people who suffer, he said.

He expanded on the pope’s familiar description of the church as a field hospital. “It’s very simple. It’s a tent where you attend people. Be there. Don’t waste time. That’s where you meet wounded people.”

Father Malone said Jesus, the source of joy in the Gospels, is the medication in the field hospital. Pope Francis pictures himself as a patient in the hospital, not the doctor, he said.

People have rediscovered the sacrament of penance during this papacy because Pope Francis identifies himself as a sinner and is seen going to confession, Archbishop Pierre said. “Many had abandoned the sacrament of reconciliation, but have rediscovered the necessity of receiving the forgiveness of God and giving it to others,” he said.

When the pope speaks of mercy, it is not only a human virtue, but a gift from God, and people are the first target of God’s mercy, Archbishop Pierre said. “Our church is a merciful church. We present truth in a respectful way. Mercy means dialogue and walking along the path of the other,” he said.

“I’m impressed to see the capacity Pope Francis has to meet people,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Politicians want to see the pope, not just for the photo, but for the encounter. I have seen politicians transformed.”

He recounted the pope’s visit to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of Lutheranism. “We’ve had the idea that Luther is the enemy,” the nuncio said. But Pope Francis had an encounter with Lutheran leaders there and said Luther is part of the history of the Catholic Church. The pope speaks with his actions, Archbishop Pierre said.

The nuncio said Pope Francis approaches dialogue as an important ingredient of public life. People who dialogue successfully must be rooted in their own convictions and faith. In this way, dialogue is “two rooted persons looking for the truth,” he said.

The pope is hard on bishops and priests because he wants them to be masters of discernment and help people develop the capacity to choose between good and bad, Archbishop Pierre said. It is not enough to identify right from wrong, he said. If the understanding is not applied to personal actions, life will be a dichotomy.

Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) is based on the closing document of the 2007 meeting of the Latin American bishops’ council in Aparecida, Brazil. Then-Archbishop Bergoglio led the editing committee for the document. A document intended for the Latin American bishops “became the patrimony of the whole church,” Archbishop Pierre said.

He said Pope Francis’ experience living in a “peripheral” country helped him elaborate a different kind of option for the poor than the one envisioned three decades earlier at the Medellin, Colombia, meeting of the Latin American bishops. “The reality is the people had been evangelized so deeply that the culture was filled with the Gospel,” he said.

Because the church does not play the same role in people’s lives it once did, the church today is challenged to help people encounter Christ and rediscover the presence of God in their own lives. It must be missionary and not self-referential, the nuncio said.

In his introductory remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, said Archbishop Pierre is an intrepid adventurer who “enfleshes Pope Francis’ desire to go to the peripheries.”

Archbishop Pierre entered the papal diplomatic corps in 1977 and served in New Zealand, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil, Geneva, Haiti, Uganda and Mexico. Pope Francis named him apostolic nuncio to the United States April 12, 2016.

The event was co-sponsored by America Media and the American Bible Society and held at the New York Athletic Club.

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New Baltimore auxiliary bishops offer thanks to clergy and families

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Following their Jan. 19 episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, new Auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore recalled the litany of the saints, during which they lay prostrate before the altar.

“I felt a lot of joy and a tremendous hope for what is to come in the future, and for the future of ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Bishop Parker said as he was whisked to the post-Mass reception.

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

Auxiliary Bishops Mark E. Brennan and Adam J. Parker hold the apostolic mandates naming them bishops of the Archdiocese of Baltimore during their Jan. 19 ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

“I was praying along with the litany,” Bishop Brennan said with a grin while obliging the camera-wielding faithful who had momentarily cornered him and his priest handler. “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, hear my prayer.”

Close to 2,000 gathered in the cathedral on an unusually sunny and mild January afternoon to witness and take part in the ceremony, led by principal celebrant and consecrator Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori.

The archbishop was joined by co-consecrators Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, where Bishop Brennan served as a parish priest before his elevation to the episcopacy; and Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and former archbishop Baltimore, whom Bishop Parker had served as priest-secretary from 2007 to 2013.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York concelebrated the Mass; he was rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome while Bishop Parker studied there from 1995 to 2001. Bishop Brennan also studied at that college, from 1970 to 1974.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read the mandates from Pope Francis authorizing the ordinations, and drew laughter from the pews when he opted to begin with “the older one,” Bishop Brennan, who is 69. Bishop Parker is 45.

Archbishop Lori also broached the age topic, referring in his homily to the first reading, which was from Jeremiah and read by Sister Maria Luz Ortiz of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. In it God steamrolls the young prophet’s fretting: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

“So, Bishop Brennan, let no one take advantage of your youth and inexperience,” the archbishop quipped, adding on a more serious note: “After all, you know, Bishop Brennan and I, we’ve been in priestly ministry a little over 40 years -– we go way back.”

Archbishop Lori shared some insight on the role of bishops.

“The greatest challenge in being a bishop is not administration; it’s not public relations; and it’s not fundraising,” he said. “The greatest challenge is to be always and everywhere an example for God’s people. This is how we become witnesses of hope; this is how we strive to be authentic shepherds.”

He exhorted Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan to teach the faith “not as words to be followed but as words of spirit and life that transform us from the inside out and make us bearers of the peace of Christ in a world that is broken, a nation that is divided, and in communities that are in need of healing.”

After promising to uphold the faith and fulfill their duties, and after lying prostrate before the altar, Bishop Parker kneeled in reverence as Archbishop Lori laid his hands on his head, a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, followed by Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal O’Brien.

The archbishop and the two co-consecrators did the same for Bishop Brennan; then the other bishops present laid their hands on both men.

Ending the rite of ordination, Archbishop Lori anointed Bishop Parker and Bishop Brennan with holy chrism and presented each with his Book of the Gospels, episcopal ring, crosier and miter.

“This is the day the Lord has made,” Bishop Parker said in his remarks at the end of Mass. “Let us rejoice and be glad.”

He thanked “the Lord for calling me to the priesthood and now giving me its fullness” as well as the people of the Baltimore Archdiocese for their prayers and “profound encouragement.”

He thanked Archbishop Lori for ordaining him and Cardinal O’Brien for his guidance and friendship. “You have changed my priesthood forever,” Bishop Parker told the cardinal.

Finally, he thanked his mother, Maureen Parker, who sat in the front row and was first to receive Communion from the new bishop.

“It was from you and Dad I first heard about Jesus Christ,” Bishop Parker told her, also acknowledging his father, George Parker, who died in 2012. “To you I owe gratitude for my life and my faith.”

Bishop Brennan thanked those who came before him in the succession begun with the Apostles.

“We stand today, all of us here, on the shoulders of giants,” he said.

He also acknowledged his parents, both deceased, who had taken him and his brother, Paul, who was present, to Mass and confession.

“They grounded us in the Catholic faith in a very simple and unpretentious way,” he said.

Bishop Brennan also noted that his elevation to the episcopacy was not the first unexpected change in his ministry. He said in the Washington archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, then the archbishop there, “sent me from a nice little parish in Northwest Washington … to a huge, multicultural parish, St. Martin of Tours” in suburban Maryland. “It opened me up ever more to serving people who speak differently and look differently than I do.”

He also delivered remarks in Spanish and French, primary languages of the immigrants he served at St. Martin.

Archbishop Lori reflected on his first time ordaining bishops.

“It was a very moving experience,” he told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet. “As the ceremony unfolded, it just took on a life of its own thanks to the Holy Spirit.”

Thinking of all the people in the Baltimore Archdiocese thankful for two new leaders to share the work, he said, “I’m at the top of that list.”

— By Eric Zygmont

Zygmont is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. George P. Matysek Jr. contributed to this story.

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Papal nuncio tells U.S. bishops to welcome, learn from and teach young people

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, urged U.S. bishops Nov. 14 to pay close attention to young Catholics to both learn from them and help them to deepen their faith.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaks Nov. 14 during the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Many young people are not allergic to the truths of the faith or to the church, but they simply don’t know anything or know very little about the faith,” he said, urging bishops to take steps needed to help them.

The archbishop, who addressed the bishops at the start of their fall general assembly in Baltimore, also noted that it is difficult for today’s young people to live out their faith in today’s world and they need to know they are welcome in the church.

His remarks were geared to encouraging bishops to prepare for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops, which has the theme of accompanying young people on the path of faith and in discerning their vocation, announced by the Vatican this October.

“We know that youth are critical to the life of the church,” he stressed, adding that they often “find themselves at the peripheries of both the church and society. We must go out to them.”

This was the archbishop’s first address to an assembly of the U.S. bishops since his appointment earlier this year. He said Catholics in the U.S. were still benefiting from the pope’s visit last year and from experiences from the Year of Mercy.

The archbishop, who has spent 40 years in the Vatican diplomatic corps, spent most of his 30-minute address pleading with the bishops to come to understand the young people in their dioceses, noting that they “tend to place everything in the present moment” and are often in a state of constant flux and unable to make a permanent choice.

He also noted the impact of modern technology on today’s youths, saying it has made them change their ways of showing their feelings and communicating, trading “virtual closeness” for real encounters.

To truly understand the young is not only a way to reach out to them but a way to help them discern their next steps, particularly regarding vocations, he added.

Archbishop Pierre stressed that in general they are “open, available and generous” and want authentic relationships and seek the truth. They want to be heard, he added, saying church leaders need to listen to them, following the example of Pope Francis.

The archbishop also stressed the bishops alone do not have the responsibility to help young people connect with their faith, because it is up to the whole church “to go to and walk with our young people.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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Pope’s representative at U.S.-Mexico Mass: Borders should be bridges, not walls

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Catholic News Service

NOGALES, Ariz. — The apostolic nuncio to the United States celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border Oct. 23 offering prayers to break down the barriers that separate people.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre faced the immense steel border fence in Nogales as he and the bishop of Tucson and the bishop of Mexico’s Diocese of Nogales, Sonora, concelebrated the liturgy with people gathered on both sides of the border.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders,  an effort of Mexico's Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of Mexico’s Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The nuncio began the prayer of the faithful with a plea for unity.

“Jesus, we come before you today as your disciples, sometimes filled with fear and doubt, even suspicion,” he said. “We pray to dismantle the barriers within our hearts and minds that separate us, who are all members of your body.”

Following his words, young people led the congregation in prayers for “needed immigration reform,” for humane treatment of migrants who don’t have documents, and for “security and justice for all.” They prayed especially for migrant children, “who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” and for all who have died in border violence, including border patrol agents, immigrants and innocent victims.

The Mass was the third such one this year along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The liturgies were organized by Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of the dioceses of Nogales, Tucson and Phoenix to work collaboratively on issues that affect the church and people in the border region.

During his homily and afterward in an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Pierre echoed the sentiments of Pope Francis in regard to borders and the care of migrants and refugees, who the archbishop said all too often are looked upon as unwanted and as criminals.

“Borders exist all over the world, and borders are not bad, but borders should not be just a barrier, should not be a wall, but should be a bridge between people,” the nuncio said.

“Anything that goes in the direction of understanding, helping each other, discovering the beauty of the other is what is necessary to covert hearts and transform the world,” he said. “It’s time to break the obstacles that exist between people.”

To cheers from both sides of the border, Archbishop Pierre ended his homily with, “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva la iglesia santa!” (“Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Long live the holy church!”)

Archbishop Pierre is no stranger to the people of Mexico. He served as nuncio in Mexico for nine years before being appointed as the pope’s representative in the U.S. But he said this Mass was his first visit to Nogales, Arizona.

In what seemed to be a spontaneous moment during the service, five young people ducked under a barrier near the border fence to hold hands and pray the Our Father with those on the other side in Mexico.

They stayed at the border fence until the sign of peace, offering their hands to those on the other side.

Carlos Zapien, music director for the Diocese of Tucson, said the special Mass was a statement that “faith can unite people.”

Zapien’s original score “Misa de la Misericordia” “Mass of Mercy”) was used in the cross-border liturgy with choirs on both sides participating.

“Faith and music have no borders,” he said.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson said he was grateful for to Archbishop Pierre’s participation in the service.

“He represents Pope Francis, whose heart is along the borders of our world, caring for immigrants and refugees,” he told CNS.

“The nuncio’s presence is a reminder of our Holy Father’s great love for those who are suffering, for those who are in need. So this was a very special celebration here in ‘ambos Nogales’ (‘both Nogaleses’) as we pray together across walls united in our prayer for one another.”

Among the hundreds of people that gathered for the border Mass were those that serve the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national migrant advocacy and service organization.

Bishop Kicanas expressed his pride in the group and in a group of young people, the Kino Teens, who work with the border initiative.

“Their enthusiasm, their spirit is a true blessing,” he said. “They believe in the Lord. They believe in the church, and to have these young people participating in our Mass here in ‘ambos Nogales’ was a true blessing.”

 

Follow Wiechec on Twitter: @nancywiechec.

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Pope’s new nuncio to U.S. says he’s ready to listen, learn

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new nuncio to the United States, said he is ready to learn about the Catholic Church in the country and will try his best to be Pope Francis’ emissary, particularly in promoting a church that is close to those who suffer.

Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, during an April 21 meeting at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the new apostolic nuncio to the United States, during an April 21 meeting at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

The archbishop, who had a private meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis April 21, gave interviews the next day to the English and the Italian programs of Vatican Radio.

The 70-year-old French native has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years and said a nuncio’s job is to help the pope fulfill his ministry of building up the local churches, respecting their diversity, while keeping them united with the universal church.

“The difficulty or the challenge,” he said, is “to listen, to be careful about what’s going on, to understand, to exercise dialogue. I think that’s very important, to discover the beauty, the richness of the culture of the people, the way the people live (and) to help the inculturation of the Gospel in a particular culture.”

At the same time, he said, a nuncio’s mission is “to help the pope understand — the pope and those that work with him — to understand what’s going on.”

“The richness of the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Pierre said, comes from that combination of valuing peoples and cultures and their local expressions of faith while being united universally.

The archbishop told Vatican Radio’s English program, “I’m quite excited, sometimes fearful,” about leaving Mexico and going to the United States. He said his reaction was “oh” when the pope told him of his new assignment “because it’s such a big country, such a big history, but you know I’m trustful in God and very, very grateful for this mission which is given to me.”

“I know I have to learn in the same way that when I arrived in Mexico nine years ago I had to learn a lot and I’m still learning, so I’m sure that during this year the American people — particularly the bishops, the priests, the religious, the laypeople — will be my teachers,” he said. “I’m ready to learn.”

The first mission the pope gives his nuncios, and the whole church, obviously is to proclaim the Gospel, he said. Next there is “the way the pope wants us and the church to be close to people, especially those who suffer, the poor. This is also what I’ve perceived in what he has told me and I will try my best to be a faithful emissary of the pope.”

Speaking to the Italian program, Archbishop Pierre said being nuncio to the United States is “an enormous, difficult” ministry, but he is ready to take up the task. “The first thing is to learn, to listen, and I think that one of the qualities the pope asks of us is to be able to listen and not go in with preconceived ideas.”

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Pope names nuncio to Mexico to be his new representative to church in U.S. — UPDATED

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to Mexico since 2007, to be the new apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to Mexico since 2007, has been appointed the new apostolic nuncio to the United States. (CNS photo/Mario Armas, Reuters)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to Mexico since 2007, has been appointed the new apostolic nuncio to the United States. (CNS photo/Mario Armas, Reuters)

He succeeds Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who has been in the post since 2011. Archbishop Vigano turned 75 in January, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation into the pope.

As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, shared “a heartfelt greeting and my prayerful support” of the newly named nuncio “as he embarks on his service to our country.”

“A shared closeness with the church in Mexico already creates a strong fraternal bond between us,” said the archbishop about the April 12 appointment.

“With fond affection, allow me also to thank Archbishop Vigano for his selfless contributions to the life of the Catholic Church in the United States,” Archbishop Kurtz added.

A nuncio is a Vatican diplomat with the rank of ambassador. He is responsible for diplomatic relations with the government, but also serves as the pope’s representative to the church in a given country, which includes responsibility for coordinating the search for and vetting of candidates to become bishops.

Christophe Louis Yves Georges Pierre was born Jan. 30, 1946, in Rennes in France’s Brittany region, where his family has had roots for many generations. He first attended school at Antsirabe in Madagascar, pursued his secondary education at the College of Saint-Malo in France and also spent one year in Morocco at Lycee Francais of Marrakesh.

He entered Saint-Yves seminary in Rennes in 1963, but he interrupted his studies for two years of military service in 1965 and 1966. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Rennes at the Cathedral of Saint-Malo April 5, 1970.

Then-Father Pierre earned his master’s degree in theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris and his doctorate in canon law in Rome. He was parochial vicar of the parish of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul de Colombes in the Diocese of Nanterre, France, from 1970 to 1973.

He then earned a diploma at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, which provides training to priests for eventual service in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. In 1977, he entered diplomatic service, with his first post in Wellington, New Zealand. He then served in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil and at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.

In July 1995, St. John Paul II named him an archbishop and appointed him as apostolic nuncio to Haiti. He served there until 1999, and then was named nuncio to Uganda, where he stayed until 2007, when he was named nuncio to Mexico.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in a statement that he looked forward to welcoming Archbishop Pierre to the archdiocese “where he will make his home as he carries out his responsibilities across the country.” The apostolic nunciature is located in the nation’s capital.

“Archbishop Pierre is recognized for his distinguished diplomatic career and service to the church,” said the cardinal, who also expressed gratitude for Archbishop Vigano’s service.

“As he departs Washington and concludes his service to the church, I offer my gratitude for his many kindnesses as we worked together, particularly in anticipation of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States last September,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Archbishop Vigano carries with him our heartfelt prayers and best wishes.”

 

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