Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Peter Bryan Wells, the senior American official in the Roman Curia, as Nuncio to South Africa and Botswana.
The Vatican announced this on Feb. 9, adding that the Holy Father has at the same time elevated Msgr. Wells to the titular see of Marcianopolis, with the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-designate is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the United States.
For the past six and a half years, Archbishop-designate Wells has been Assessor for the General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, a position equivalent to deputy chief of staff, which handles most Church affairs apart from relations with states. He has served in this key role since July 16, 2009, first under Archbishop (now cardinal) Fernando Filoni and since May 2011 under Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu who as ‘Substitute’ to the Secretariat of State,(or chief of staff) is the third ranking official in the Vatican.
In actual fact, Wells has worked in the Vatican since 2002 in the First Section of the Secretariat of State, and was head of its Anglophone desk from 2006-09. A polyglot, he also speaks Italian, Spanish and German fluently.
For almost 14 years, he has given loyal, professional and dedicated service to three popes—John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. During his time in the Vatican his work entailed, among other things, contributing to events surrounding the death and funeral of John Paul II (2005), the election that same year of Benedict XVI and his resignation in 2013, and the subsequent election of Francis.
As assessor under Benedict XVI, Archbishop-designate Wells was involved in the day-to-day operations of the Vatican, and made a significant contribution to the church during the turbulent period of the Vatileaks’ scandal as the First Section in which he worked handled among its many briefs also those relating to security and communications In this context, he is recognized as the driving force behind the decision to bring a communications advisor—Greg Burke—into the Secretariat of State at that particularly difficult time.
Astute and hardworking, Archbishop-designate Wells has always kept a low-profile and is credited with exercising a strong, positive influence in developing the Vatican’s response to the sexual abuse of minors by priests’ scandal, when the issue emerged in Germany and other countries in those years.
Now 52, Archbishop-designate Wells was born in Tulsa, Okla., the eldest of five children. After studying at St. Meinrad Seminary College in Indiana where he gained a degree in Letters, he was sent to the North American College, Rome, to study theology. There he obtained degrees in theology: a baccalureate from the Jesuit-run Gregorian University and, in 1992, a licentiate from the John Paul II Institute for studies on Marriage and the Family at the Lateran University.
Ordained priest in 1991 for the diocese of Tulsa, on his return from Rome he served as assistant pastor at Holy Family cathedral in Tulsa, private secretary to the bishop, and vicar for religious education in the diocese.
He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on July 1, 1999, after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy where he studied international law and papal diplomacy. In that period too he gained a licentiate and doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, in 1998 and 1999 respectively. His first diplomatic assignment was to the Nunciature in Nigeria, but in 2002 he was recalled to Rome to work in the Vatican.
He will now move to South Africa and reside in Pretoria. At the same time, he will serve as the papal nuncio to Botswana.
It gives me great pleasure to greet all of you in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth, especially in this special Jubilee Year of Mercy which invites ail of us to be merciful as the Father is.
For the very first time in the history of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa we are celebrating the living memory of Blessed Benedict Daswa who witnessed to his faith by his prayer, what he said and did as a family man and teacher - even to the extent of laying down his life rather than compromise his faith.
It is hard to believe that in June of this year I will be celebrating my second anniversary as a Bishop. I am blessed to have been able to visit most of the Parishes in our Diocese as well as visiting various Communities. It has also been a great pleasure for me to spend time in all of our Deaneries.
I took over a very well-organised Diocese, the legacy of the late Bishop Michael Coleman. During his tenure as Bishop he built, renovated and restored many Churches to provide a dignified worshipping place for our communities. His dream was that every Parish becomes an oasis of God's love, inner healing and reconciliation
As I am sure you are aware, any growth in Dioceses, not only of a financial nature, always depends on the commitment and generosity of its people. You have all been part of the many improvements made and Churches built, of new ministries established, Small Christian Communities formed etc...
On Stewardship Sunday we account to our communities on how we have managed God's gifts of time, treasure and talent during the past year.
We have experienced an 8.5% increase in your contributions when compared to last year, 2014. We value this commitment from you as we are very aware of the tough economic climate we are currently experiencing. Through your efforts and in keeping with the thoughts of the Holy Father, "Rise, get up, take your mat, let's put an end to this and walk", we will continue to strive towards becoming a self-sustaining Diocese in terms of resources and personnel.
Without your generous contributions it would become almost impossible for the Diocese to meet its responsibilities. There has also been an increase in the Special Collections for the needy, both inside the Diocese and elsewhere, I, therefore take this opportunity to relay my sincere gratitude and appreciation for your great generosity and spirit of communion in which you share your material resources, in kind, money and solidarity,
This Stewardship Sunday 2016, let us focus on making stewardship a way of life. Let us prayerfully reflect on the gifts each of us has been given, may we all be united as a Diocese, go forward in great strength to continue proclaiming the Kingdom of God and building upon the solid foundations that our fore fathers in the faith have laid in in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth.
"Everything has been entrusted to our protection, and ail of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God's gifts!" -Pope Francis
With sincere good wishes and God's blessings on your communities.
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.