Archbishop Balvo said the recent death of Bishop Bill Wright was a factor in his decision to make the invitation as he wanted to go somewhere there was an obvious need. “I wanted to go where I could be helpful,” he said.
“I was very favourably impressed by the beauty of the liturgical celebrations and the care and attention shown by the musicians, the choir, the readers, the servers and assistants and all those who were involved in the planning and in carrying out their different roles.”
Aurora observed Archbishop Balvo happily speak at length with parishioners of all ages after each Triduum service.
“I had the opportunity to greet a good number of people after the celebration of the liturgies, and I was certainly made to feel very welcome,” he said. “I was also able to gain some sense of the local Church and to meet some of the priests and religious leaders and those who serve in different roles.”
A native of Brooklyn, New York, the 70-year-old has served 35 years in the Vatican’s diplomatic service in countries such as New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific, Kenya, South Sudan, and Czech Republic.
Archbishop Balvo describes the role of Nuncio as being “the eyes, ears, and hands, of the Holy Father”, who can’t be everywhere. “A Nuncio is an extension of the Holy Father’s Ministry, because the Holy Father has his concern for the Church, for all aspects of its life,” he said.
“The essence of our work is to communicate through what we say, in homilies and other things and then to keep the Holy Father informed about how life is, both the life of the society and the Church in the places where we live.”
However, he says possibly the most important work of Nuncios is to gather information to submit to the Holy Father for the appointment of bishops. This is particularly relevant to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle as a new bishop for the region is yet to be named.
Archbishop Balvo said he did not visit the Diocese to gather information on the appointment of a new bishop but told Aurora the process was underway, and his time here has provided a useful context.
Chancellor of the Diocese, Fr Mathew Muller, hosted Archbishop Balvo during his stay, showing him the local surrounds and the original bishop’s residence and adjacent chapel in Maitland.
“I learnt a great deal from Father Matthew about the history and the life, both spiritual and material, of the people of the Diocese,” Archbishop Balvo said.
He also met with Diocesan Administrator, Father Greg Barker, to discuss local matters.
Archbishop Balvo was unable to provide a timeline for when a new bishop will be appointed, but suggested whoever takes on the role will face big challenges.
“The abuse of minors and vulnerable people by members of the clergy has done a great deal of damage to the credibility and the overall mission of the Church,” he said.
“Therefore, it will be necessary to rebuild the people’s trust and confidence, which will be painstaking work. From our human experience we know how hard it is to rebuild relationships that have somehow been damaged.”
However, he said the responsibility should not lay with the bishop alone.
“It is a mission that will have to be carried out by everyone in the Church and, while I do not think that there are easy solutions, a path can be found in lives of simplicity, service and love, with the help of the many spiritual means that the Church possesses,” he said.
Due to his age, Archbishop Balvo believes his appointment as Nuncio to Australia may be his final assignment and is hopeful he will get the opportunity to visit many dioceses across the country.
He hopes to engage with and address the needs of young people in the Church, “so that they have a feeling of belonging to the Christian community and can dedicate themselves to the mission of evangelization”.
“It will also be important to address the many issues that relate to the social teaching of the Church, such as poverty and climate change, so that the whole of society may be transformed by the message of the Gospel,” he said.