A Nigerian, Jude Okolo, Appointed as Pope Rep in Ireland
An experienced African, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, was appointedApostolic Nuncio in Ireland on May 13, 2017. He is the successor of Archbishop Charles Brown, who was appointed Nuncio in Albania in March. The new “ambassador of the Pope” will have several sensitive issues to deal with.
A native of Nigeria, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo is the second African nuncio to represent the pope in a western European country after Ugandan Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, who has been nuncio in Belgium and Luxembourg since 2016.
Archbishop Okolo was born in the city of Kano, Nigeria, on December 18, 1956. He was ordained a priest on July 2, 1983, for the diocese of Nnewi. After continuing his studies in Rome and earning a doctorate in Canon Law, Archbishop Okolo joined the Holy See’s diplomatic services. His first post was in Sri Lanka.The prelate went on to serve in several pontifical diplomatic positions: Haiti, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Australia. On August 2, 2008, Archbishop Okolo became nuncio in Chad and the Central African Republic; then, on October 7, 2013, in the Dominican Republic. Besides his native Igbo, the new nuncio in Ireland speaks French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, and Czech.
The issues he is going to find on his plate are particularly sensitive: first of all, of course, there is the delicate and much disputed handling of the record of abuse of minors, a real thorn in the side of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Another issue the nuncio is expected to deal with is the organization of the World Meeting of Families in August 2018, which will probably include a visit from the pope to this country that has only once received a pontifical visit, in 1979, at the beginning of John Paul II’s pontificate.
Not to mention the problem caused by the Brexit voted by Ireland’s British neighbors: in less than two years, when the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of the European Union, Northern Ireland, a British province, and the Republic of Ireland, that will remain a part of Europe, will be more divided than they have ever been since the partition of 1921. “This will be the first time that the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have not been in step with each other,” remarked the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on May 12. Brexit is thus likely to create difficulties between the north and the south.
Pope Francis, is thus counting on a new man by nominating this experienced, polyglot African to a key position in Vatican diplomacy, in the hopes of re-establishing the Catholic Church’s influence on the “Island of Saints”.