Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, has announced his retirement at a thanksgiving Mass for the papal visit at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.
The Mass, arranged by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to mark the unprecedented success of Pope Benedict’s September trip to Britain, was celebrated last Sunday. Led by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Scottish bishops paid tribute to the Nuncio and all those who helped make the papal visit a success.
A veteran of the Holy See’s diplomatic service, Archbishop Muñoz had served the Pope in Africa, Scandinavia and Latin American before the becoming the Vatican’s representative to Britain in 2004.
The thanksgiving celebrations were muted by the Nuncio’s announcement. His health has declined since he suffered a mild stroke in May.
The archbishop told the congregation: “Sadly, for medical reasons I find that I now need to return to Spain in order to continue my treatment and this means that, when my resignation is accepted by the Holy Father, perhaps in early December, I will be coming to the end of my time here as Apostolic Nuncio. I want you all to know that I have very much enjoyed your friendship and kind hospitality. As we all know, the weather here in Scotland may not always be perfect and warm, but in my experience your welcome in Scotland always is. It has always been a great joy to have the opportunity to visit your beautiful country.”
The archbishop told the congregation that he had been hugely touched by their spiritual generosity.
“I should like to express to you all my sincere gratitude for all your kindness and your prayers for me during the five and a half years that I have been Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain,” he said. “I am especially grateful for all the prayers and tokens of concern and affection which I have received during these last months while I have been unwell.
“We are all in the hands of God, and your prayers are, for me, a very great support. I will certainly not forget the people of Scotland and I will continue to pray for you from Spain. I ask too that you please continue to pray for Cardinal Keith and for the bishops of Scotland, remembering too the priests and deacons who collaborate with them in their service to the local churches.”
Cardinal O’Brien thanked the archbishop for all his work and assured him of the prayers of the people of Scotland. “We all thank him for his efforts on our behalf with regard to the papal visit, and indeed thank him most sincerely since the beginning of his mission in our country,” he said. “We are, of course, aware of his illness recently and promise our ongoing thoughts and prayers for him at this time.”
Earlier in the day the archbishop had said he wished to offer his most sincere thanks to all those who had helped make the papal visit such a success on behalf on Pope Benedict.
He said: “On the Holy Father’s behalf, I thank Her Majesty the Queen, her Government as well as the civil authorities here in Scotland. Also the leaders and members of the other Christian communities and other faiths for all that they have done. While thanking everyone who has worked so hard, I would also wish to express thanks quite simply, to the people of Scotland; for the warmth of your welcome, for your prayers and your hospitality to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.” He also thanked Cardinal O’Brien and Fr Paul Conroy, co-ordinator of the visit to Scotland.
During his homily Cardinal O’Brien also said he and his brother bishops were full of gratitude to all those who had helped make the papal visit such a success, and reflected on the continuing benefits.
He said: “Much has been made of the words that we are now experiencing a ‘Benedict bounce’. I had the privilege of explaining the meaning of those words to the Pope in England-quite simply saying that the Catholic community is now on a ‘high’ following on the Pope’s visit. We must continue to experience and to live out our past joy through our prayerful study of what the Pope said to us in his time with us in Scotland and not just continue to relive the experiences of those hours.”