Pope’s United Nations envoy is a Thomasian

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THE VATICAN’S representative to the United Nations (UN) in New York believes that one’s specific calling in the Church takes a long to come.

Bishop Bernardito Auza, ordained priest in the Diocese of Tagbilaran in 1985, was appointed permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN in 2014 when he was still serving as apostolic nuncio to Haiti.

His full title is Titular Archbishop of Suacia, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and to the Organization of American States.

Before becoming the Vatican’s top diplomat, Auza admitted that he did not know much about diplomacy, citing that one of the Vatican’s roles that has not always been made public is its mediation of international conflicts.

Bishop Auza with Pope Francis.

“I was not aware of the existence of the Holy See’s diplomatic service, and if I were, I would never have pursued it on my own will because I would consider my character unsuited for a diplomat,” Auza said in an e-mail interview.

Auza, who studied philosophy and theology in the University, said he initially felt hesitant when he was given the opportunity to serve as a prelate-diplomat, having been a “rowdy” seminarian.

“In brief, I did not desire to pursue this road. I started to take it, pursue it and stay on it primarily for obedience, then I have come to believe it could be my “most likely” specific calling in the Church,” Auza said.

‘Thankful to Catherine of Alexandria’

Auza recalled long nights coupled with semestral exams and sneaking past his formator-priests to climb over the walls in pursuit of the “balut” vendor, when he was in the University as a seminarian.

Auza said he and his classmates would go to a statue of St. Catherine of Alexandria, which stood very close to the walls of the Central Seminary, to celebrate birthdays and satisfy what they craved.

“So, besides being our Patroness of Philosophy, she was very helpful in other ways.  We cannot thank Saint Catherine enough!” Auza quipped. 

“If the statue is still there, I’m afraid I am giving a terrible idea to the seminarians at the UST Central Seminary!” he added.

Hardships away from home

The prelate’s most difficult missions were when he was assigned to Bulgaria to help the Catholic churches retrieve all of their properties confiscated by the communist government and in Haiti during the monstrous 2010 earthquake.

Born and raised in Bohol, Auza said he merely went along with what potential his superiors saw in him.

“In the service of the Church, you don’t choose what you want to do or what specific ministry you want to pursue and do. [I] was chosen because of my previous experiences in multilateral affairs,” he said. “I can only hope that Pope Francis has not regretted his decision!”

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