Central European Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Rome
National Day 13 March
The new Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain His Excellency Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams often finds himself pulled aside when walking through passport control in airports. “I’m an American travelling with a Vatican passport,” he explains, “which is always confusing as there aren’t too many of us in existence!”
The Nuncio arrived in the UK in May 2017. He returns to London after 45 years. “My coming back to the capital has been a gift.”
Growing up in Philadelphia, the Nuncio lived in “an intensely religious and happy family life, with lots of exposure to God.” He entered the seminary and was ordained as a priest on 16 May 1970, the most memorable day of his life: “One saint said that the priesthood is so great a gift that eternity is not enough to thank God for it.”
Working as an assistant priest in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, his Archbishop sent him to Rome to study Canon Law, and there he joined the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, an institution that has been in existence for 300 years. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on 18 March 1976. “For a city boy who had never been west of Pittsburgh, it was a big change!” he remarks.
In 1996, he began his service as Head of Mission, an Apostolic Nuncio, a Papal Representative. His first mission in that role was in Bangladesh, where he served for six years; thereafter Zimbabwe for five years; the Philippines for three and a half years; Greece for six years; and now here.
“The role of the Nuncio is to represent the Pope who is the visible Head of the Church,” he explains. “For Pope Francis, the role of the Pope and his representatives is very particular. The world is suffering. In large part, its misery comes from a lack of a sense of God. The role of the Pope is to point people towards God who is the source of love and truth. With openness to the Transcendent… public life can become active and fruitful, and society, even a global society, can be transformed for the good.”
With diplomatic relations with 182 of the 193 countries in the world, the Holy See has a long reach in global diplomacy. Furthermore, the Holy See has identified various diplomatic challenges, items that are addressed in the work of its missions around the world. One, to encourage the pursuit of peace. “No month goes by without the Pope’s reiterating his appeal for peace.” Two, the pursuit of disarmament, in particular nuclear disarmament and abolition. Three, responding to the crisis of refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. Four, combatting human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. “Pope Francis is universally recognised as a moral voice in the fight against trafficking in persons. It is one of the defining priorities of his papacy.” Five, efforts to eliminate extreme poverty. Six, the defence and promotion of the dignity of every human person and of the family. “Before the UN General Assembly, Pope Francis called for ‘respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those seen as disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.’”
These tasks are obviously a considerable undertaking. Aside from fostering good relations between the Holy See and the UK government, and the Church of England, the Apostolic Nuncio is also heavily involved in interfaith dialogue. “Of course, we also work on relations with all the other churches and religious communities here.”
Like his past assignments, the Nuncio explains that his work in the UK “reflects the Pope’s mission in some modest way.” So, what are the priorities of the Pope’s diplomacy? “The priorities are entirely spiritual. The theme of encounter with God and dialogue with the human family is the thread that ties together the Pope’s words and actions, and the inspiration for the Holy See’s activities.
“Pope Francis especially recommends the necessity of solidarity and charity to the world community. When he speaks about global security he does so in the light of the requirements of the God of love, and underlines the importance given to mutual knowledge and respect for resolving conflicts.
“This is the spirit that inspires the work of the Holy See in its bilateral and multilateral relations across the world. The Holy See scrupulously avoids identifying itself with any political or ideological lines.”