The Popeâs new representative to the United States says the youth of the countryâs Catholic Church are a beacon of hope to the rest of the Catholic world, especially Europe.
âIt is very exciting,â Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÃ² told CNA on Nov. 3.
âI know the United States is the greatest country in many ways, but also from the Church point of view, because there are many young religious institutions and many young people. Europe has become an âold continent,â but the United States has a youth that is brilliant and enthusiastic. I hope to be able to work with them in my new position,â he said.
Archbishop ViganÃ² will take up his new post as the papal nuncio to the United States on Saturday, Nov. 12. Two days later, he will meet with the countryâs bishops at their fall assembly in Baltimore.
Although he has visited the U.S. on several occasions previously, he says he is very eager to learn more about his new homeland, where âthere are many communities forming one nation.â On a practical level, Archbishop ViganÃ² realizes this will mean a lot of travel, but he sees it as âa great occasion to know the country.â
Until recently, the 70-year-old Italian was the second person in charge at the Governatorate of the Vatican City. That body is in charge of many of the City Stateâs departments such as its police service, observatory, museums, post office and tourist information service.
In his new post, Archbishop ViganÃ² succeeds Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died this past July.
One of his key tasks will be to report back to the Vaticanâs Secretariat of State on the latest developments in the U.S. presidential race, and in particular, on matters âregarding protecting moral values and the values of life, the protection of life.â
Archbishop ViganÃ² says he is heartened by recent moves in certain U.S. states to further protect unborn children. He calls those initiatives âan important sign for the entire worldâ and a âreal hope for Europe.â Itâs la moda (the fashion), he says as he explains his hope for Europe, adding, it âusually follows in the steps of the United States.â
Last week, the chairman of the U.S. bishopsâ Committee on Religious Freedom, Bishop William E. Lori, warned in testimony before Congress that religious freedom in America is being threatened by several actions taken by the Obama administration. As an example, he cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesâ requirement that nearly all private health insurance plans cover sterilization and contraception, including some that cause early abortion.
Archbishop ViganÃ² says he is still getting up to speed on the issue but has been âdeeply surprisedâ to learn of these developments.
âI know that all the ideals of the American dream are really founded in freedom and the first value is the freedom of conscience â you never have to go against what your conscience is dictating to you.â
He gives the example of a doctor being obliged to perform medical procedures against his or her conscience, describing such a suggestion as ânonsenseâ that is ânot solely against Christianity - it is against humanity.â
Interestingly, one thing that excites him about his new position is the reputation of the U.S. as a leader in science and technology. âScience has a great appeal to me, a great interest,â he explains. He is particularly interested in the dialogue between faith and science and believes that science can lead people to God.
Ahead of his departure for the States, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted a reception on Nov. 3 to wish Archbishop ViganÃ² well in his new appointment.
âWe are here tonight to congratulate and celebrate our new nuncio to the United States and so we wish him well,â said Ambassador Miguel DÃaz to CNA. âWe know Archbishop ViganÃ² will represent the Holy Father and the Holy See well in the United States,â he said.
Archbishop Carlo Mario ViganÃ² is a native of the town of Varese in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. He was ordained a priest in 1968 and entered the Holy Seeâs diplomatic service in 1973. Since then he has served in diplomatic missions to Iraq, the United Kingdom and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. He was nuncio to Nigeria between 1992 and 1998. He also worked in the Vaticanâs Secretariat of State from 1978 to 1989. He speaks Italian, English, Spanish and French.