by Alan McElwain
WELL, my friend Gerard Noel has brought home the bacon, as we sportive types say.
Back in May, 1985. he tipped Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Australia, to succeed Archbishop Bruno Heim as ProNuncio in Britian. With the connivance of Pope John Paul, it has come off. Archbishop Barbarito will leave Australia early in March to take up his new post in London.
You will like him. At 63, he is mild, naturally courteous priest-diplomat with a valuable capacity for making instant friendships. He is a pleasant man to deal with. He has got along extremely well with the Australian bishops. He has been no thrower-about of weight nor loud-pedallist of his ecclesiastical ranking.
Since he came here in 1978, he has always been keen to improve relations with Australia and Australians, including the Aboriginal. To this extent, he has found the time — and the eager inclination — to travel throughout the Continent. He has visited every diocese and has been as happy to accept invitations to minor occasions as he has to top drawer ones.
It was as though he saw Australia as his one vast parish and he loved to get out and about and to identify with it wherever and whenever he could.
He is a profound admirer of Pope John Paul and all his works, and will leave his successor a mass of detail about the Pope's visit to Australia next November.
Understandably, he is disappointed he will not be here for the visit. "But like John the Baptist, I have prepared the way; the groundwork has been done" he says.
Although he has been in Australia as Pro-Nuncio for eight years, he has actually spent 14 years here. He was secretary to the then Apostolic Delegation in Sydney from 1953 to 1959. Archbishop Barbarito says one of the things he has enjoyed most about Australia is the friendliness of the people and their sincerity. Australians, he says, are always for the underdog.
In an interview with the Sydney Archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Weekly, he says: "Australians always respond well to appeals. They show that by sharing with others they can also show God their appreciation of all He has given to this country".
He instances charity and solidarity as some of the Church's outstanding
characteristics in Australia., In an address, he stressed that priests and laymen should promptly accept in Christlike obedience the decisions of their bishops who, "as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ in their midst".
He has spoken a good deal about the second Vatican Council and sees as its central purpose the clarification of the nature and the mission of the Church of God.
Recently, addressing the Australian Catholic bishops, meeting in Sydney, Archbishop Barbarito said the Council's principal work still remains to be done. Some 23 years after the Council's end, he said, the Church in all its components was assimilating, slowly but surely, the Council's spirit and vision.
Early last year, Archbishop Barbarito became Australia's top diplomat when the Government appointed him Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Canberra, Australia's capital.
He has established views about the importance of Papal diplomacy. Once, in Sydney, he told the St Thomas More Society (a body of Catholic judges, barristers, solicitors and law students) that "under the wise and enlightened direction of the Popes of modern times, Papal diplomatic activity has been — and is — one of the most effective instruments of peace in the world".
Behind the many-sided participation of the Holy See in international affairs, he said, lie the profound religious and moral convictions which are the ultimate inspiration of all its activities. In their concern for peace, the Roman Pontiffs had acted directly through their diplomatic representatives to persuade responsible heads of State to use restraint and explore diligently every possible way to a peaceful settlement of conflicts and controversies in the best interest of their own peoples and of the whole world.
Britain's new Pro-Nuncio is a scholar and enjoys good Conversation; besides his native Italian, Archbishop Barbarito speaks' English, French and Spanish, and hopes that his new posting will help him to enlarge the Holy See's influence to create a greater atmosphere of peace and security in the European sphere.
Australia, I am sure, will miss him as much as he will the country where he has been so very much at home. "I -will be carrying Australia in my heart when I go", he told an interviewer. Nonetheless he looks forward very much indeed to his new posting. We wish him well. Auguri Excellenza.