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Pope’s rep in USA: Church’s thoughts are not those of man

Cardinal Christophe Pierre in his titular Church in Rome, San Benedetto fuori Porta San Paolo on April 21, 2024

Hugues Lefèvre / I.MEDIA

I.Media - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 04/23/24

Cardinal Christophe Pierre reflects on a life lived in service of Vatican diplomacy as a way to build up the Church, delights in having a new "parish home" with his titular church as cardinal.

“After more than 50 years journeying around the world, the Pope has given me a parish again.” This is what Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said in his homily as he “took possession” of his titular Church in Rome on April 21, 2024. All cardinals are assigned a Church in Rome, as a sign of their connection to the pope, and Cardinal Pierre’s is San Benedetto fuori Porta San Paolo, in the south of the city. In front of the Italian faithful, the 78-year-old French diplomat praised the culture of encounter. 

In a homily that began in French, continued in Italian, and was tinged with Spanish expressions, Cardinal Pierre confided his joy at coming to “his” parish in Rome, having devoted his entire life to traveling around the world as a diplomat for the Holy See.  

Cardinal Christophe Pierre in his titular Church in Rome, San Benedetto fuori Porta San Paolo on April 21, 2024

Christophe Pierre is the Pope’s ambassador in Washington, D.C., and was created a cardinal last September, a title rarely conferred on an active nuncio.

This Sunday in Rome, he listened to the reading of the “bull of creation,” which assigns a specific church to a cardinal. It was first read in French, on behalf of the Pope, by Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, and then in Italian by the parish priest of the San Benedetto parish. 

Encountering Christ and the Church across the world

“It’s the last thing I expected,” smiled the Nuncio, commenting on the announcement of his creation as a cardinal last year. “However, the Church’s thoughts are not those of men. “

“At the end of the seminary, my bishop baffled me. I think it’s always a bit like that,” said Cardinal Pierre, recalling that he had “resisted” when his superior suggested he embark on the diplomatic path of the Holy See.

“I was afraid of leaving my Brittany, [his native region in France, editor’s note] […], of being a priest without roots,” he explained.

Now having served in New Zealand, Uganda, Haiti, and Mexico, he confided that each time he experienced that each new role was “an encounter with a local Church, a local country, a local culture.” For him, these “new roots” were “the greatest gift of [his] life.”

Citing Pope Francis and his invitation to “leave one’s comfort zone,” Cardinal Pierre also explained that the encounter with God always passes through “the encounter with Christ,” and therefore “with the Church.”

The Church “is not a structure outside our lives,” he said.

The eldest of six siblings, he explained that his family was “the first Church” through which he encountered Christ. 

Christophe Pierre’s cardinal coat of arms now adorns the façade of “his” Church in Rome. It features a white stoat, symbol of the city of Saint-Malo in Brittany, and the granite of the region. 

Cardinal Christophe Pierre's coat of arms

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