The Pope’s new representative to the United States says the youth of the country’s Catholic Church are a beacon of hope to the rest of the Catholic world, especially Europe.
“It is very exciting,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò told CNA on Nov. 3.
“I 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 ‘old continent,’ 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,” he said.
Archbishop Viganò 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 country’s 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 “there are many communities forming one nation.” On a practical level, Archbishop Viganò realizes this will mean a lot of travel, but he sees it as “a great occasion to know the country.”
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 State’s departments such as its police service, observatory, museums, post office and tourist information service.
In his new post, Archbishop Viganò succeeds Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died this past July.
One of his key tasks will be to report back to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State on the latest developments in the U.S. presidential race, and in particular, on matters “regarding protecting moral values and the values of life, the protection of life.”
Archbishop Viganò says he is heartened by recent moves in certain U.S. states to further protect unborn children. He calls those initiatives “an important sign for the entire world” and a “real hope for Europe.” It’s la moda (the fashion), he says as he explains his hope for Europe, adding, it “usually follows in the steps of the United States.”
Last week, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ 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 Services’ requirement that nearly all private health insurance plans cover sterilization and contraception, including some that cause early abortion.
Archbishop Viganò says he is still getting up to speed on the issue but has been “deeply surprised” to learn of these developments.
“I know that all the ideals of the American dream are really founded in freedom and the first value is the freedom of conscience – you never have to go against what your conscience is dictating to you.”
He gives the example of a doctor being obliged to perform medical procedures against his or her conscience, describing such a suggestion as “nonsense” that is “not solely against Christianity - it is against humanity.”
Interestingly, one thing that excites him about his new position is the reputation of the U.S. as a leader in science and technology. “Science has a great appeal to me, a great interest,” 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 Viganò well in his new appointment.
“We are here tonight to congratulate and celebrate our new nuncio to the United States and so we wish him well,” said Ambassador Miguel Díaz to CNA. “We know Archbishop Viganò will represent the Holy Father and the Holy See well in the United States,” he said.
Archbishop Carlo Mario Viganò 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 See’s 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 Vatican’s Secretariat of State from 1978 to 1989. He speaks Italian, English, Spanish and French.