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Globetrotting bishop arrives in Australia


Archbishop Charles Balvo has arrived as Pope Francis’ ambassador to Australia in what the 70 year old believes will be his final assignment after having already served 35 years in the Vatican’s diplomatic service.

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A native of Brooklyn, New York, Archbishop Balvo presented his credentials to the Governor General of Australia on April 1 – the 17th anniversary of his first appointment as an Apostolic Nuncio, to New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific.

He has also served as papal ambassador to Kenya and South Sudan and, most recently, to the Czech Republic. He had held earlier diplomatic postings to Latin America, the Baltic States, Africa and the Middle East.

Archbishop Balvo said a visit to Rome last November to meet with Pope Francis had an unexpected outcome: he was to take up the Australian post vacated last year when Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana was named Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and to Cyprus as well as Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.

Archbishop Balvo said the task of any Apostolic Nuncio is to be “the eyes, ears, hands, if you will, of the Holy Father, an extension of the Holy Father’s Ministry, because the Holy Father has his concern for the Church, all aspects of its life”.

Having served in New Zealand, Archbishop Balvo said he had visited Australia on a few occasions, including for a meeting of the bishops of Oceania and for World Youth Day 2008.

With his new appointment, he knows visiting the local churches and meeting with the people of God will be the best way to get to know the bishops and the faithful.

“It’s a question of being in personal contact and to understand in some way the life of the Church in the country to which you are sent,” he said.

“That’s how you see what are the conditions of the Church. You talk to people and let people talk to you.”

Given that Australia is almost 100 times the size of the Czech Republic, Archbishop Balvo knows that getting to all 28 geographical dioceses won’t be easy, but he’s committed to doing that.

One of his first visits was to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, where he spent time during Holy Week with Catholics who are still mourning the death of Bishop Bill Wright last November.

Speaking of some of the challenges facing the Church, Archbishop Balvo said one of the things that people have always appreciated about the Church in different places is a life of service.

“In some of the places where I’ve lived, like in Africa, in Kenya or even more in South Sudan, education, health care, so much of this is through the Catholic Church, through the sacrifice especially of religious men and women,” he said.

“So, I think that’s one of the ways in which we can help overcome some of the difficulties that we have faced, especially with trying to regain people’s credibility, is through service, how we can serve those who are most in need, the marginalised and really dedicate ourselves to that.

“And, of course, the life of prayer, the life of worship. That’s important.”


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