MANILA - Archbishop Charles John Brown, the new apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, presented his credentials to President Rodrigo Duterte in a virtual ceremony held at the Malacañang Palace on Monday.
Brown, who now represents the pope and the Holy See in the country, went to the Palace but he did not meet the president physically amid health measures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The prelate arrived in the Philippines last November 29.
Although majority of Filipinos are Catholics, Brown is set to take up his new role with an increasing tension between the Catholic Church in the Philippines and the Duterte administration.
High-ranking prelates continue to criticize some of Duterte's policies, mainly his bloody war against illegal drugs, which saw the killing of thousands of suspected drug users and traffickers. This, in turn, earned the ire of Duterte.
Since he became president, the former Davao mayor spared no ill words in criticizing the Church, including several members of the clergy.
Traditionally, the papal nuncio in the Philippines also sits as the dean of the diplomatic corps.
Another challenge that Brown will have to undertake is the selection of new bishops in the country, including the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila which has remained vacant since February after its former archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle left for Rome to take up his new position as the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The apostolic nuncio is part of the long process of the selection of new bishops and archbishops along with the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops before it is ultimately decided by the pope.
Aside from Manila, there are other five ecclesiastical territories in the Philippines with no ruling bishop as of writing.
Before coming to the Philippines, Brown also served as the pope's representative to Albania and Ireland.