The news of Msgr. Brown’s possible appointment emerged earlier this week following a meeting of the Irish cabinet in Dublin where the Holy See’s nomination for a nuncio was discussed and approved. If appointed, Msgr. Brown would replace Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza who was reassigned to the Czech Republic in September.
It is widely recognized that relations between the Holy See and Ireland are currently at their lowest point since the two states established diplomatic relations in 1929.
Earlier this month, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore announced the closure of Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See after 82 years. His claim that the decision was taken solely on economic grounds was met with skepticism by many leading Irish Catholics.
The decision to close the embassy followed harsh words spoken against the Catholic Church in July by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Dublin parliament. Prime Minister Kenny accused the Vatican of attempting to “frustrate an inquiry” into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne, County Cork.
The Vatican rejected this accusation and a spokesperson for the Prime Minister later confirmed that he had not been referring to any specific incident. Prime Minister Kenny has yet to withdraw his remarks or issue an apology.
Irish-Vatican relations could face hope, however, with the possible appointment of a new nuncio.
A native of New York, Msgr. Brown studied history at the University of Notre Dame before going on to study theology at Oxford and medieval studies at the University of Toronto. He also has a doctorate in sacramental theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Anselm in Rome.
Since 1994 he has been an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith where he worked closely with Cardinal Ratzinger—now Pope Benedict—up until 2005. The congregation is also the Vatican body that deals most closely with issue of clerical abuse.
Those who have worked with Msgr. Brown say he is much loved in the Roman curia and have described him as a good and holy man. Over many years, Msgr. Brown has given up much of his spare time—including holidays—to work with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Given his position as a Vatican official, Msgr. Brown has given few media interviews during his many years in Rome. However, in 2008 he spoke with a female Canadian journalist who described him as “handsome, smart, young and funny, with a New Yorker’s easy way of keeping his cool.”
The Vatican press office has not yet confirmed his appointment but it could be officially announced by the Secretariat of State as early as Nov. 26.