Recent Papal Nuncio Appointment Brings Back Memories

Dominic Monti, OFM Around the Province

The Nov. 26 appointment by the Vatican of an American as the Holy See’s ambassador to Ireland inspired Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, to provide historical background to the news, noting a connection to Holy Name Province.

Msgr. Charles Brown, who was also named titular Archbishop of Aquileia, has served since 1994 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was headed by Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), according to Catholic New York

NEW YORK — There a good deal of excitement in the ecclesiastical world over the surprising fact that Pope Benedict XVI has named an American, New Yorkpriest Msgr. Charles Brown, to be the new papal nuncio to Ireland to help repair relations between that country and the Vatican. It is an occasion to recall that the first Papal nuncio to independent Ireland, in equally troubled times, was a friar of our own Province, Archbishop Paschal Robinson, OFM.

Paschal was an Irish native, born in Dublin in 1870, but came to the United States as a boy with his family. He took up a career in journalism, and at the age of 22 was already associate editor of the North American Review, the country’s oldest literary magazine.

Attracted to Franciscan ideals, he entered the Order at St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y., in 1896 as part of Immaculate Conception Custody. After completing his novitiate, Paschal began studying theology and taught on the college faculty. He completed his education at the Antonianum in Rome. When the Franciscan entities on the East Coast were rearranged in 1901, he became one of the founding members of the new Holy Name Province.

Following his ordination that same year, he taught theology in the Province and became noted for his Franciscan scholarship. In 1913, he was named professor of medieval history at The Catholic University of America. Paschal was asked to serve on a U.S. mission at the Versailles conference of 1919, where his diplomatic skills became apparent. He was increasingly called into service by the Holy See, and was named consultor to several Vatican congregations.

In 1929, he was named the first papal nuncio to the Irish Free State, an office he filled with distinction for almost two decades, until his death in 1948. Thousands thronged the streets of Dublin in mourning.

— Fr. Dominic, a widely respected Franciscan historian, is author of Francis & His Brothers: A Popular History of the Franciscan Friars. He has served as Provincial Vicar since 2005.