Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ representative in the United States, came to Long Island on Sunday to deliver a speech in what church officials called the first visit to the Diocese of Rockville Centre by a papal nuncio.
Pierre delivered the annual St. Agnes Lecture in Pastoral Theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington. The lecture traditionally is given by high-level church members including cardinals.
The French-born archbishop a longtime Vatican diplomat who served as papal nuncio in Mexico for the past nine years, was named to the U.S. post in April. He is based in Washington, D.C.
He told about 200 people at the seminary that he “did not know Long Island is such a beautiful place” and had imagined before arriving that it was mainly a crowded place of big buildings.
After Bishop William Murphy, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, introduced him, Pierre joked that “I always call him Bill.”
In his address on pastoral work in the church, Pierre said, “Today the church needs some leaders” and that amid our globalized, technology-driven world people can often feel “disconnected.”
Pierre plays a key role in determining who is selected as the new bishops of dioceses around the country. As nuncio, he submits a “terna” or list of three candidates to a Vatican committee, which then reviews it and if in agreement submits the list to Pope Francis.
Murphy reached the church retirement age for bishops of 75 in May 2015, and church experts say he could be replaced at any moment. But diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said Pierre’s visit to Long Island was unrelated to the proceedings to select and announce a new bishop.