Sacred Heart University Gives Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre Honorary Degree

News Story: February 24, 2017
             President John J. Petillo and Trustee Lois Schine present the honorary degree to Archbishop Pierre. 

Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Christophe Pierre received an honorary degree during Sacred Heart University’s Special Academic Convocation Wednesday, Feb. 22, and also shared his thoughts on Pope Francis’s vision of the church in the 21st century during an evening lecture at the University’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis appointed Pierre as apostolic nuncio, or ambassador to the United States, in April 2016. SHU was his first university visit and honorary degree since being appointed. On Wednesday, Pierre toured campus and shared lunch with administration before receiving his honorary degree. He then visited a class, spoke with students and went to dinner before giving his lecture to a packed house.

At convocation, students, administrators and faculty gave the archbishop a warm welcome. The SHU Liturgical Choir also sang hymns and songs.

"This day belongs to you--an affirmation of all that you do day in and day out to make the mission come alive on this campus," Fr. Tony Ciorra, vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity, told faculty and staff.     

Sophomore Trevor O’Brien thanked Pierre and Pope Francis for being dedicated to young people. “It’s clear the subject is of importance to the pope for which we are grateful,” O’Brien said.

Jim Castonguay, director of the School of Communications & Media Arts, quoted some of the complimentary things said about Pierre’s appointment last year including how the United States “won the lottery” with Pierre and that he’s a “bridge builder” and a “champion for religious freedom.” Castonguay thanked Pierre for visiting and inspiring the SHU community.

Michelle Loris, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, read the citation; SHU President John J. Petillo conferred the degree; and Lois Schine, a University trustee, vested the hood.

Pierre thanked the University for the honor. “I wish to express the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father and all gathered here on this occasion.” Pierre then spoke about the role of the Catholic university in the 21st century. “A university is the fruit of a larger educational experience. At the origin of a university is not a decree or a doctrine, rather there is an experience of the encounter with reality in all its wideness and richness, an educational experience of handing on and freely seeking the truth.”

"What is the vision of Pope Francis?” Pierre asked during his evening lecture. “In short, his vision is one of openness and dialogue. He has a vision of an open world in which everyone can encounter God and others, even strangers. His is a vision of the world and church, without sacrificing essentials or identity, that is open to new ideas.”

Openness was a reoccurring theme in Pierre’s lecture as well as solidarity, dialogue, inclusion and mercy.

“The vision of the pope requires seeing people and their situations for what they truly are…For this reason, Pope Francis is unpredictable. He is a man of continuous discernment, not a man of black and white,” Pierre said.  

Pierre said that the pope’s thought is in “continuous development” and that he is not “locked into one rigid plan” to bring the church’s mercy and teachings to the world. He said the pope challenges the flock to get out of their comfort zone and identify with those who are suffering and vulnerable throughout the world.

Pierre ended his talk with a question to the audience, “how does Pope Francis’s vision of the world challenge you?”

The archbishop then took questions from the audience. One audience member asked Pierre if he knew how many people converted to Catholicism after a visit from the pope. While Pierre wasn’t sure if people converted, he said during a visit from the pope, people opened their hearts and listened. A student asked Pierre for tips or suggestions on how to have meaningful discernment. He told the student the main source is prayer and that discernment should be exercised every day.

Papal Nuncio Visit 2/22/17

To watch a video of the Nuncio’s talk, see below.