Thursday, April 19, 2007

Out of Africa

The name of Archbishop Christoph Pierre has acquired an elevated currency over the last year. After Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo was transferred from the Vatican's "foreign ministry" to the city-state's governor's house in September, Pierre was widely viewed among the more likely to get the nod as Benedict XVI placed the Secretariat of State's top ranks under new management.

The appointment as Secretary for Relations with States eventually fell to Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a native Corsican serving as nuncio in Eritrea, but the buzz that Rome's eye was on the 61 year-old Frenchman proved itself right last month when Pierre, since 1999 the Holy See's point man in Uganda, was given one of the Vatican's highest-profile diplomatic postings as apostolic nuncio to Mexico.

In his farewell to Kampala, the departing nuncio took the unusual step of offering some parting advice:
THE outgoing Papal Nuncio to Uganda, has called for a more modernized and community networked Catholic Church, saying people can't continue living in a patriarchal system by listening to orders from above. He said the church must be interactive and community networked for the people to appreciate their faith...

[Pierre] has urged the Catholic church in Uganda to initiate diocesan pilgrims [sic] where ordinary people can interact and get to know their faith deeper.
According to a very positive local report, the archbishop -- who served for four years as nuncio in Haiti, and in New Zealand, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil and the UN Mission in Geneva before becoming a mission chief -- he leaves with the credibility and goodwill to call for change:
He is known by virtually every Catholic in Uganda. From individual families; primary, secondary schools and universities; to hospitals and dioceses, Pierre has been to almost every one of them.

In the one month, short of eight years, he has represented the Pope at the Nunciature in Mbuya, Kampala, Archbishop Pierre has attended a church function in almost every parish. He has consecrated churches in the smallest sub-parishes; presided other funerals of the faithful departed and international events that have attracted millions of people.

Dignitary or commoner, Pierre has had ease interacting with people. This was echoed on April 15, 2007 at the thanksgiving/farewell event that the Kampala Archbishop, Cyprian Lwanga, organised for him at Lubaga.

The different speakers applauded Pierre's humility and readiness to help people regardless of their statuses. Representing government, second deputy premier Henry Kajura, said he met the outgoing nuncio at almost every church function that he (Kajura) was invited to.

Robert Ssempa, the head of the laity in Kampala Archdiocese, said Pierre has been more of a diocesan bishop than a papal representative. "He did not mind how low a function was or who had organised it. "If he had time, he would come to grace it. Pierre has had courtesy to eat with simple people in homes, schools, hospitals and even the internally displaced people, in the same way he has pleasured to dine with fellow VIPs."

When the announcement of his transfer to Mexico reached FM radios, Pierre was preparing to travel to northern Uganda and Karamoja to console the suffering people. Nonetheless, he promised to go there as soon as he returned to Kampala....

[W]hen on December 29, 2004 the nuncio in Burundi, Archbishop Michael Courtney, was assassinated, Rome chose Pierre to oversee the Nunciature. Pierre who would man the Fort till January 22, 2005, when a substantial nuncio was named, led the Courtney funeral Mass before thousands at the Regina Mundi Cathedral in Bujumbura, on December 30.

Also, a couple of years ago, when Bishop Joseph Zziwa left the country for treatment, Pierre readily accepted an appeal to stand in for him. During the month, he acted for the Ordinary of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese, Kajura recalled," he ensured pastoral visits to parishes, confirmed children and ordained priests."
...and dreams of Sambi doing a "stand in" for a US diocese danced in the heads of many.

Anyone need a breather out there?