Who is the new Nuncio?
Undoubtedly Archbishop Celestino Migliore is the most excellent Vatican diplomat. This prestigious appointment shows the importance of the Polish Church for the Holy See.
After 21 years there is an important change in the Polish Church: the apostolic nuncio is not a Pole. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who is the new apostolic nuncio, is Italian and has had a long experience of the Church both in Europe and outside the Old Continent. He combined work in the diplomatic posts (Angola, the USA, and Egypt) with his work in the Secretariat of State in the Vatican, being responsible for the relationships with the Asian countries: China, Vietnam and North Korea. He represented the Holy See in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and from 2002 he was a permanent observer at the UN in New York where the most experienced hierarchs, the key people of the Vatican diplomacy, are sent.
This appointment shows clearly the importance of the Polish Church for the Holy See. ‘And it is not because of the pontificate of the Polish Pope for whom Benedict XVI had a special liking but because of her potential and real power’, stresses Grzegorz Poland, a Catholic journalist. Marcin Przeciszewski, the head of the Catholic Information Agency, adds, ‘The fact that the apostolic nuncio to Poland is a high-ranking Holy See diplomat emphasises the position of the nunciature in Poland in the general perspective of the diplomacy of the Holy See. The apostolic nunciature in Warsaw is a central seat of this type in the whole Central-Eastern Europe and the Church in Poland is one of the strongest and biggest local Churches in Europe. The Pope has great hopes concerning the Polish Church.
Language and Polish soul
Archbishop Migliore (58) is not coming to an alien country since he knows the Polish reality. In 1989, when he was some 40 years old, having a doctorate in canon law and diploma of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he organised the works of the Warsaw nunciature before the arrival of the first apostolic nuncio to Poland after the war.
He himself recollects his stay in our country (in an interview for the Italian portal ‘Citta Nuova’), ‘I arrived in Poland several weeks after the fall of the last communist government. The atmosphere was vivid, full of hope for the future, determination to regain freedom, democracy, initiative and solidarity. It was the period when John Paul II reminded his countrymen that ‘Solidarity’ should not be only a social and political movement but it should work out a new culture to renew the institutions and the whole social-political life of the country.’
Bishop Piotr Libera of Plock remembers Archbishop Migliore very well. He worked in the nunciature for almost three years. ‘He was cordial, open and easy to make contacts. We often discussed theological topics, e.g. the next encyclical of John Paul II or the current events in the Church’, Bishop Libera says. ‘I could see that he was a priest of deep spirituality; he prayed a lot. One could feel that he carried the burden of great responsibility connected with the diplomat’s job, which was secret to a considerable extent.’
Both clergymen had common interests. They played tennis. Sometimes they went for long walks in Warsaw. The problem was the language. Bishop Libera wanted to practise his Italian whereas Fr Migliore wanted to practise his Polish, which he learnt diligently, first on his own and then he attended courses, watched Polish TV, read newspapers (he also knows English, French, Spanish and Portuguese).
The new nuncio got to know Poland through the language as well as culture and mentality of our country. Therefore, he was eager to follow the advice of one of the directors of the Diplomatic Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and visited all cemeteries in Warsaw on 1 November. ‘He told me that it let him get to know the Polish soul better’, Bishop Libera recollects.
He eagerly accompanied Archbishop Kowalczyk when the nuncio participated in various religious ceremonies. ‘I took him to the coast, the mountains, Silesia or Podlasie because he wanted to get to know the local customs. We were in Czestochowa several times and he could see the faith of the Polish people there’, relates Archbishop Kowalczyk, the present Primate of Poland.
Courage at UN forum
The new nuncio shows excellent knowledge of the world of politics and diplomacy. He is a man of great intellectual skills, wide horizons, talents and the ability to foresee things.
Bishop Libera recollects, ‘Once he told me about the matters concerning the talks with the Palestinians. In a while he spoke about the antipersonnel mines or slave labour of children and women in various countries. It is a wide spectrum of topics. It testifies to his huge knowledge of the current world affairs.’
Archbishop Migliore became famous for his courageous speeches at the UN forum. For instance, in 2008 he stated that the Holy See would not accept the French project of the resolution demanding de-penalisation of homosexuality because it could mean legalisation of homosexual relationships in the future. He questioned the document demanding the guarantee of the right to family planning and sexual education. He justified that it could become an excuse for abortion. He also opposed the intentions of the United Nations to make the right to abortion one of the fundamental human rights. He defined it unambiguously as ‘contemporary barbarism.’ Recently the public opinion did not like his criticism of the ‘gender’ philosophy, blurring the difference between the sexes and otherness between women and men. Thus he opposed the UN that wanted to protect the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bi-and transsexuals). He was known as a firm opponent of in-vitro fertilisation and legalisation of homosexual relationships.
His speeches and openly expressed views exposed him to accusations, mainly of the liberal world. He was soon regarded as a conservative and enemy of progress. In Poland ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ began presenting him as an exceptionally conservative hierarch.
‘But these accusations are groundless and even funny because Archbishop Migliore presents the stand of the Church’, Marcin Przeciszewski comments. And this stand has not changed for 2,000 years.
He will find his way quickly in Poland
Those who know the new nuncio agree that he likes Poland. He also likes the times of ‘Solidarity.’ He himself stresses eagerly, referring to the words of the Polish Pope, that ‘Polish Solidarity’ can give a new spirit to the nation’ and that ‘mutual solidarity and the Polish idealism let Poles face the hard times bravely.’
But the Poland of the early 1990s, which Archbishop Migliore got to know, is completely different than the Poland of the year 2010. ‘I am sure that he will find himself in the present reality very quickly as it was in the past when he began his ministry in the nunciature in Warsaw’, Bishop Libera tries to convince us.
Marcin Przeciszewski speaks about the great asset of the new nuncio, which is his excellent knowledge of the universal Church in various regions of the world. ‘Thanks to this global perspective and awareness of the challenges the contemporary Church faces the nuncio will surely be an excellent councillor for the Polish Bishops’ Conference, helpful to discern the signs of the times,’ the director of KAI thinks.
According to the statute of the Polish Bishops’ Conference the nuncio can participate in the sessions of the bishops at the invitation of the President of the Bishops’ Conference and he is obliged to take part in those plenary sessions that concern the relations between the Church and the State.
Archbishop Migliore has been to Poland since 10 September 2010. Now he has to meet all Polish bishops and there will be a solemn inauguration of his ministry, to be held in the Warsaw Cathedral on 28 September 2010.