Former Vatican Ambassador to Turkey Appointed Auxiliary Bishop in Detroit

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A former Vatican ambassador to Turkey and Taiwan who grew up in Michigan and served in countries around the world will become the next assistant bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, Pope Francis announced Monday.

Beginning in July, Bishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell will become one of five auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese, which includes more than one million Catholics in six southeast Michigan counties. There are two other retired auxiliary bishops.

Russell, 63, has served as a diplomat and helped represent the Catholic Church around the world, including in Turkey, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Switzerland, Nigeria and Turkmenistan, according to a biography from the archdiocese. of Detroit and previous media reports.

In 2008, Pope Benedict appointed Russell Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Taiwan, meaning he was effectively the Vatican’s ambassador to the tiny Asian nation. The Vatican has no official relations with mainland China.

Russell served as ambassador to Taiwan for eight years, working to “help relations between the Holy See, Taiwan and the mainland,” he said in a 2016 article in the Boston Pilot, a Catholic newspaper.

In 2016, Pope Francis appointed Russell Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan. He received the title of archbishop the same year. In 2018, Pope Francis added Azerbaijan to the nations to which he served as ambassador.

“I am so happy with Pope Francis’ decision to send me home and look forward to serving as Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit and immersing myself in the mission and ministry of the local church in the southeast Michigan,” Russell said Monday in a statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said Russell’s global experience will help enrich the local archdiocese.

“Having served the Church all over the world, Bishop Russell brings to the Archdiocese of Detroit a valuable perspective of the universal Church and our mission to make all nations joyful missionary disciples,” Vigneron said in a statement. .

Russell was born in Massachusetts. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to his hometown of Alpena, Michigan when he was in third grade, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Boston Pilot.

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He attended St. Bernard Elementary School in Clairvaux and Alpena High School, then entered St. John’s Seminary in Boston and was ordained a priest in 1987. Russell served five years in parish ministry and one year in as personal secretary to Cardinal Archbishop Bernard. Straight.

After studying in Rome at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and at the Pontifical Gregorian University, he became a diplomat for the Catholic Church.

Russell’s tenure as ambassador to Turkey and Taiwan has come amid sometimes strained relations between the Vatican, Turkey and China.

China severed ties with the Vatican in 1951. Pope Benedict XVI visited Turkey in 2006 but was met with protests for comments he made earlier about Islam; while there he visited a mosque, only the second time in history that a pope has visited an Islamic place of worship, according to media reports.

Years before Russell became ambassador to Turkey in 2016, he worked in Turkey for the Vatican in the apostolic nunciature from 2000 to 2002. He was visiting the United States at the time of the September 11 attacks, the archdiocese said. from Detroit.

“I was there at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York,” he told the Boston Pilot. “The world completely changed at that time. We are seeing the fruits of that now.”

When he became ambassador, Turkey was facing an influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria.

“Turkey is geographically in a difficult place in the world,” he said in 2016. “The southern border is Syria, the so-called Islamic State, Iraq and Iran – it’s a neighborhood And yet, the presence of the Church in Turkey has been since the beginning of Christianity.Turkey is a land blessed by the presence of the Apostles and many great saints.

Russell said in the statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit that he first met Vigneron 30 years ago. In 2016, Vigneron was one of the co-consecrators when he became archbishop in a ceremony in Boston.

“Bishop Vigneron has shown me fraternal support on various occasions, and now his warm welcome to the Archdiocese is a particular source of gratitude,” Russell said.

Contact Niraj Warikoo: [email protected] or Twitter @nwarikoo

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