Charles John Brown

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Charles John Brown
Apostolic Nuncio to Albania
Titular Archbishop of Aquileia
Appointed9 March 2017
Ordination13 May 1989
by John O'Connor (cardinal)
Consecration6 January 2012
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Birth nameCharles John Brown
Born (1959-10-13) 13 October 1959 (age 59)
New York City, United States
Alma materPontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm
Styles of
Charles John Brown
Mitre plain 2.png
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleArchbishop

Charles John Brown (born 13 October 1959) is an American-born archbishop of the Catholic Church who has been apostolic nuncio to Albania since 2017. Before entering the diplomatic service of the Holy See he worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Early life and education[edit]

Brown was born on 13 October 1959 in the East Village, Manhattan, in New York City, when it was a Jewish neighborhood. He later said his family "were pretty much the only Gentile family in the apartment block" as he grew up. He is the oldest of six children. When he was five, the family moved to Ridgewood, a suburb north of New York City. In 1971, when he was 11, they moved again to Windham, New York, in the Catskill Mountains.[1]

His mother's maiden name was Patricia Murphy and one great grandparent was called O'Callaghan, but Archbishop Brown has had little contact with the Ireland of his maternal ancestors. The "Brown" surname is an anglicisation of the German "Braun."[2]

Brown made the following academic studies: BA (History), University of Notre Dame,[3] MA (Theology), University of Oxford (England), MA (Medieval Studies), University of Toronto, he then entered the seminary and earned an M. Div., Saint Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers (USA), STD (Sacramental Theology), Pontifical University St. Anselmo, Rome.


He was ordained a priest for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York by Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor on 13 May 1989[4] in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York. From 1989 to 1991 he was assistant priest at St. Brendan's Parish in the Bronx, New York City. In 1991, Brown was sent to Rome because Cardinal O'Connor wanted him to study for a doctorate in sacramental theology and then become a theology professor at Dunwoodie Seminary. Instead a position opened up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where they needed an English speaker.[1]

From 1994 to his appointment as nuncio, he worked as an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He became a Chaplain of His Holiness on 6 May 2000. He was appointed Adjunct Secretary of the International Theological Commission in September 2009.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has dealt with child abuse scandals since 1994,[3][5][6][7][8] when it was headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who as Pope Benedict XVI appointed him nuncio.


Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland[edit]

In an interview given in October 2012 Brown describes his appointment to Ireland. "I was thunderstruck and flabbergasted in the autumn of 2011 when Cardinal Bertone [the Vatican Secretary of State] presented me with this new mission and said that the Holy Father [i.e., the Pope] had personally requested me to do it" he says. "I will do whatever the Holy Father asks me to do – that goes without saying – but of course I thought there might be others who would be better for the job and who had more experience. It's not the usual pattern for someone who works in one of the dicasteries of the Holy See to be transferred to the diplomatic service". He was given a day "to think and pray about it", after which he said to the Holy Father that he believed the assignment was part of God's will for him, coming as it did from the Pope himself. When I suggest that the appointment was a sign that Benedict XVI esteems him highly, Archbishop Brown shakes his head, shrugs and says: "Maybe. But I have a lot of work to do in Ireland and it remains to be seen if I'll do the job well".[1]

Brown was named Titular Archbishop of Aquileia and nuncio to Ireland on 26 November 2011 and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on 6 January 2012.[9] After his consecration Archbishop Brown said "The entire experience was one of great joy and consolation for me. I was certainly aware of my unworthiness for the episcopate and my limitations, but especially when the pope laid his hands on my head, I had a tremendous sense of the strength of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the saints".[10] The experience, he said, "gives me total confidence that I can do something beautiful for God".

Brown is one of the very few nuncios appointed from outside the ranks of the Holy See's diplomatic service and he did not attend the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains those diplomats. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said he did not believe the appointment was an attempt by the Vatican to patch up relations with the Irish Government. He called Brown a theologian "much more focused on theology than relations between church and state". Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York said: "He's a young, vibrant, very theologically savvy but pastorally sensitive guy".[11]

In November 2012 Brown said the Church "had "passed through periods of incredible trial" over 15 centuries here but each time has emerged "stronger, purified and ever more faithful to the Lord". He went on to note that Catholics in Ireland needed to ask why it was that "prior generations were able to pass on their faith in situations of extreme hardship – in times of persecution, famine and even forced emigration – while, in our own time of relative comfort and ease, the faith is not always being handed on". In an interview for the Catholic bishops' Intercom magazine, he asked could it be that the "way in which we live in modern western societies makes us less sensitive to spiritual realities? Could it be, for example, that filling every hour of every day with music or television or internet or video games or texting, leads to a kind of spiritual insensitivity or numbness?"[12]

2012 interview[edit]

In a 2012 interview Brown said that he is well aware of the delicate moment in Ireland but says that he goes to Ireland "to learn" and "to help". He added: "Let us not exaggerate. The nuncio is a representative of the Holy See on the ground there. It is not that, in any sense, he is in control of the Church in Ireland. It is the bishops of Ireland who are in control of the Church in Ireland".[2]

Brown acknowledged that he has a good line of communication with Pope Benedict, saying: "I know him, he knows me. I worked with him closely for 10 years, I travelled with him, I worked hard for him. He trusts me, for better or for worse". He added: "I have not seen anything yet. I have a steep mountain to climb and I hope to be there helping. As for reforms to the Irish church, I am agnostic about this. I need to study all that material and then talk to the Irish bishops". He concluded: "The church was left behind the curve on all of that, the church has to modernise and to find new ways of presenting her message to people in this new context of the materialism and consumerism of a society that is now more similar to other European countries than it was in the 1980s".[2]

Reopening Irish Embassy[edit]

With the re-opening of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, Brown said: "It is an excellent decision for the people of Ireland and will be beneficial to Ireland in making its distinctive and important contribution to international relations. We are all grateful to those who worked so hard to make this day possible."[13]

"Green shoots"[edit]

Archbishop Brown described the rebirth as the spring after 20 years of winter, saying he sees "green shoots." "You see a renewed enthusiasm among young Catholics in Ireland now," said Archbishop Brown, who was appointed as papal ambassador in November 2011, at the cusp of the church's troubles stemming from a long-standing period of unreported clergy sexual abuse. The new generation of Catholics, some of whom are studying for the priesthood at St. Patrick's College, the national seminary in Maynooth, or the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, will "lead the church forward into the next decade," he said. Young Catholics represent what is best in the tradition of Vatican II, "the idea of communicating the ancient unchanging faith in a new, vibrant and attractive way," he said. [14]

However writing in The Tablet, Fr Sean McDonagh writes, Figures on the bishops' own website show the age profile of Irish priests. Over 65 per cent of Irish priests are aged 55 or over. There are only two priests under the age of 40 in the Archdiocese of Dublin. A priest in Killala diocese, Fr Brendan Hoban, pointed out that there has been a priest and celebration of the Eucharist in his parish –Moygownagh – since the eighth century. But he believes he will be that last priest in that parish. At the moment there is a priest in every parish in Killala. Within 20 years there will be seven serving 22 parishes spread out over a wide area. The situation is much same in other dioceses. The research points out that to maintain the status quo would mean ordaining 82 priests each year. The reality is that 20 students entered Maynooth in September 2013. It is likely that only 10 or 12 will be ordained in 2020.[15]


Brown warned Catholics against becoming caricatures, "we need to avoid the caricature that the only thing the Catholic Church has to speak about is abortion, gay marriage and contraception". He said "the caricature would be that these Catholics, all they talk about are those three things, and we don't want to put ourselves in that situation because the beauty of life with Christ, the spirituality of the Catholic Church, the history of the Catholic Church, the life of grace, the aspiration to be found worthy of the life of the world to come, eternal life, that is what this is about." In this he echoed Pope Francis in his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica in which he said "we ought not to be reduced as Catholics to the disjointed, obsessive proclamation of a few moral truths to the exclusion of everything else". He also praised bishops for doing "an excellent job" in their presentation of the church's teachings prior to last May's same-sex marriage referendum.[16]

Apostolic Nuncio to Albania[edit]

On 9 March 2017, Pope Francis appointed Brown Apostolic Nuncio to Albania.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "'It all came together in the Himalayas'". 3 October 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Papal nuncio faces tough task in mending relations". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b Pentin, Edward (28 November 2011). "An American Goes to Dublin". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Pope Benedict XVI appoints Monsignor Charles Brown as new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ "New Papal Nuncio will take up post in January -". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ "New Papal Nuncio to Ireland announced". RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Ltd. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  7. ^ "Ireland's new papal nuncio appointed". Examiner Publications (Cork) Limited. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  8. ^ O'Brien, James (24 November 2011). "Pope appoints Irish American as Papal Nuncio to Ireland: Shock appointment from outside Vatican diplomatic corps". IrishCentral LLC. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  9. ^ Agnew, Paddy (7 January 2012). "Papal nuncio faces tough task in mending relations". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  10. ^ "CNS STORY: On Epiphany, pope ordains US, Polish priests as archbishops". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  11. ^ Kerr, David (25 November 2011). "New York priest tipped as next Irish Nuncio". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  12. ^ "Papal nuncio urges Irish to recall faith of their ancestors". Irish Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Church officials welcome plan to reopen Irish Vatican Embassy". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  14. ^ "CNS STORY: American-born nuncio sees new enthusiasm among young Irish…". 9 June 2014. Archived from the original on 9 June 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  15. ^ "The rosy picture painted by the nuncio to Ireland is an illusion". The Tablet. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Papal nuncio warns Catholics against becoming 'caricatures'". Irish Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Resignations and Appointments, 09.03.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Giuseppe Leanza
Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland
2011 – 2017
Succeeded by
Jude Thaddeus Okolo
Preceded by
Ramiro Moliner Inglés
Apostolic Nuncio to Albania
2017 – present