Papal nuncio who played key role in NMH building transfer set to leave Ireland

Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo in Ireland for five years but has appointed 12 bishops

One of the most influential if low-key papal nuncios to serve in Ireland will leave shortly for Prague following the Vatican announcement of his appointment to the Czech Republic earlier this month.

Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo (65) has been in Ireland for just five years but in that time has appointed 12 bishops, or almost half the current membership of the Irish Episcopal Conference.

He was central to preparations for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in 2018 and played a key role in securing Vatican permission for the Religious Sisters of Charity to transfer "the entire issued share capital of St Vincent's Healthcare group to St Vincent's Holdings for a nominal sum of € 1.00" in 2020.

In line with Catholic Church Canon Law provisions, formal approval for any decision to complete the transfer of extensive property to new ownership by a religious congregation has to be secured from Rome.

At the time a canon lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Irish Times that the Vatican decision meant “doctrines and teachings” of the Catholic Church would have “no authority or control” over either the new St Vincent’s Hospital Holding CLG or the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) and that there was no vehicle “ by which such authority or control could be exercised”.

Rome consulted the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin; then-archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, and Archbishop Okolo before making its decision.

The 12 Bishops, including two Archbishops, who have been appointed since 2017 when Archbishop Okolo arrived in Ireland, are:

*Bishop Brendan Kelly, appointed Bishop of Galway in December 2017,

*Bishop Tom Deenihan, appointed Bishop of Meath in 2018,

*Bishop Larry Duffy, appointed Bishop of the cross-border Clogher diocese in 2018,

*Bishop Fintan Gavin was appointed Bishop of Cork and Ross in 2019,

*Bishop Michael Router was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh in 2019,

*Bishop Michael Duignan was appointed Bishop of Clonfert in 2019,

*Bishop Martin Hayes was appointed Bishop of Kilmore in 2020,

*Bishop Paul Dempsey was appointed Bishop of Achonry in 2020,

*Bishop Dermot Farrell was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 2020,

*Bishop Ger Nash was appointed Bishop of Ferns in 2021,

*Bishop Francis Duffy appointed Archbishop of Tuam in 2021,

*Bishop Duignan was appointed Bishop of Galway in 2022.

From Nigeria, Archbishop Okolo was the first African to be appointed papal nuncio to Ireland. A member of the Igbo people, with whom Ireland's Holy Ghost/Spiritan priests had such close association during the Biafran war of the late 1960s, he was ordained for the Nigerian diocese of Nnewi in 1983.

Following training with the Vatican's diplomatic service, his was assigned in June 1990 to Sri Lanka, with later service in Haiti, the Antillean Islands (including Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas and Jamaica), Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Australia.

His first appointment as papal nuncio was to the Central African Republic and Chad in 2008. In 2013 he was appointed nuncio to the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico, and he was appointed to Ireland in 2017.