Catholic Free Press

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  • Aug
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Worcester priest represents Vatican

Posted By August 12, 2011 | 3:32 pm | Local
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By William T. Clew

Msgr. Michael W. Banach, a Worcester diocesan priest who serves the Vatican in Europe, has a title that seems to be almost open-ended.

He is the permanent representative of the Holy See to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria.

And  there are a lot of International Organizations, including United Nations Organizations. They include a branch of the U.N. office on drugs and crime, a commission discussing a comprehensive nuclear test  ban  treaty, the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, the U.N. Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Msgr. Banach, who is back in the area, visiting his parents in Auburn for a couple of weeks, said he reports to the Vatican on what is discussed at the meetings of these organizations and presents the Vatican point of view at those discussions.

For example, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meets once a week and informal committee sessions are held on a regular basis, he said. There are discussions on freedom of religion and on the fight against discrimination against Christians. That is becoming more  and more an issue in the world, he said.

The OSCE  discusses freedom for the media, which the Holy See supports, he said. The Vatican believes that people have the right to know the truth. But, at the same time, the media must do its job responsibly.

The discussions on a nuclear test ban treaty are just that, discussions. The treaty is not enforced because some nations, including the United States, have not signed it yet, he said.

The Vatican supports the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, for example. If less money is spent on nuclear weapons, Msgr. Banach said, more will be available for development.

Representatives of the various countries involved in the discussions listen to the Vatican point of view and appreciate what the Vatican has to say, Msgr. Banach said.

The Vatican position is moderate and not motivated by politics, economics or military aspirations, he said. It brings an ethical and moral viewpoint to the table. The Vatican speaks for those who have no voice.

Msgr. Banach said that he must return once a year to the Vatican to report to his superiors, but he can go back more often. Next month,  for example, he will take part in a conference in Rome dedicated to the fight against discrimination against Christians.

Msgr. Banach was  born Nov. 19, 1962, in Worcester, the son of Wallace and Jane Banach. He grew up in Auburn and attended Pakachoag Elementary School and Auburn High School. He earned a bachelorÕs degree in philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross, then studied  for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome.

He was ordained a priest on July 2, 1988, by Bishop Harrington in St. Paul Cathedral. He served as associate pastor at St. AnneÕs Parish in Shrewsbury before  beginning studies in Rome in 1992 at the Gregorian University and earned a doctorate in Canon Law in 1994.

He then joined  the Vatican Diplomatic Service. He was named a  monsignor on Jan 11, 1996 by Pope John Paul II. He served in Bolivia and Nigeria and, as desk officer for Central Europe for the Vatican Secretary of State, worked in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

He was assigned to his present position in Vienna in February 2007. In an interview  in 2007 in The Catholic Free Press he said that he knew just enough German, the language spoken in Austria, to be able to order a cup of coffee and some pastry. He said, with a smile this week, that he knows a little more German now.

He said that Vienna, with less than two million residents is very livable. There is a great sense of history there. It is also kind of a melting pot, with Turks, Russians, Serbians and Croatians are part of the population.