By Natalie Cioffari
On Wednesday, Feb. 22 Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Papal Nuncio to the United States, visited Sacred Heart University.
It was his first university visit since being appointed by Pope Francis in April 2016.
A special academic convocation during the afternoon, and a lecture in the evening, were two events that he attended at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
The university and the Leadership Institute, Diocese of Bridgeport, sponsored both of them. Students, faculty and members of the community were all encouraged to attend.
Before the day of events, Pierre had the opportunity to tour the campus and visit a Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT) class.
Pierre received an honorary Sacred Heart degree at the convocation. President of the university, Dr. John J. Petillo, Michelle Loris, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Father Tony Ciorra were all in attendance among other guests.
The Sacred Heart Liturgical Choir was also present.
“He personally represents and can convey the spirit and the mind of Francis and I wanted him to see the richness of our student body,” said Petillo.
Pierre thanked the university for the degree and felt very humbled by the honor.
“I wish to express the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father and all gathered here on this occasion,” said Pierre in an article on the Sacred Heart website.
The evening lecture was named, “The Vision of Pope Francis for the Church in the 21st Century.”
The chapel was filled with members of the university and many visitors who had heard about the archbishop’s appearance through flyers and at their own local diocese.
Many students enjoyed having the archbishop on campus and thought his lecture was very enlightening.
“It was an honor to hear him speak about his time in the Vatican as well as our part as college students on the Catholic Church,” said junior Cory Robinson. “His words and his lessons taught me and my fellow Pioneers our place in this world as brothers and sisters of God and I believe this once in a lifetime opportunity is something that we will never forget in our time here and after.”
Before the introduction, members of the Sacred Heart Choir and SHU L.O.V.E. sang “Unity.”
“I enjoyed singing for the archbishop’s presentation this past Wednesday because we sang about unity. The song ‘Unity’ speaks to everyone about praying for everyone to come together as a whole,” said senior Rachel Proffitt.
Ciorra welcomed the archbishop by telling the audience of his background. Pierre speaks four different languages and served as an ambassador to Mexico and Haiti before being appointed to Papal Nuncio to the United States.
“It was awesome to have such an important figure come our campus. The Papal Nuncio’s speech was very empowering,” said junior Katherine Seckler.
In his lecture, Pierre emphasized that Pope Francis’ vision of the church is open and that all are welcome, as well as the idea of unity and serenity.
“We need bridges, not walls,” said Pierre.
He also spoke about the idea of the Church as a lighthouse, to provide security for those who are lost.
He told the audience “how does Pop Francis’ vision of the world challenge you and me?
“Archbishop Pierre seemed like such a great man,” said senior Laura Vero. “I really loved his lecture on the vision of Pope Francis, and I am so happy I attended. I hope he visits Sacred Heart in the future.”