Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo will take up his new role in Ireland in the summer

Pope Francis has appointed Nigerian Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo as Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, the first African to represent the Holy See in the country.

Archbishop Okolo previously served as nuncio to the Central African Republic and Chad, then as diplomatic representative to the Dominican Republic.

He will take up his new role in Ireland in the summer.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin welcomed his appointment, saying: “Archbishop Okolo’s rich experience in the diplomatic service of the Holy See means that he brings many gifts to bear on his new mission in Ireland.”

Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests also welcomed Archbishop Okolo’s appointment while strongly criticising his predecessor Archbishop Charles Brown.

“It is no secret that under the last Nuncio, [Pope] Francis’ vision of an open Church was not reflected in the appointment of bishops,” the Association said in a statement.

“During that time there has been, with one or two exceptions, a clear lack of leadership from Irish bishops, even a marked reluctance to follow the example of Pope Francis.”

They said that in recent years, only “safe, compliant, ultra-orthodox men” had been appointed bishops, adding: “In the appointment of bishops in recent years, men with either vision or leadership ability were largely excluded from consideration.”