Worcester native to serve
By Cindy Wooden
And Catholic Free Press staff
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Several changes were announced for U.S. members of the Vatican diplomatic corps March 19, including news that Worcester native, Archbishop Michael W. Banach, 53, is to be nuncio to Senegal and apostolic delegate in Mauritania. He has been nuncio to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands since 2013.
Also, U.S. Msgr. Paul Russell, current head of the Vatican nunciature in Taiwan, was named an archbishop and nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.
The same day, Pope Francis personally ordained to the episcopacy Archbishop Peter B. Wells, a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the new nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.
“I am grateful to Pope Francis for the trust he has shown in me by assigning me to these important missions,” Archbishop Banach told The Catholic Free Press said.
“For the Catholic Church, Africa is the continent of hope. The Church in Senegal has an important role in offering that hope,” he said in an email.
“I am excited about returning to Africa. There, the Church has a tangible impact on people’s lives in spheres such as healthcare and education. It is both an honor and a challenge to have the opportunity to contribute to those realities, to offer hope. After all, to be a Christian is to hope, to offer hope,” he said.
Archbishop Banach was born Nov. 19, 1962, in Worcester, the son of Wallace and Jane (Anisko) Banach. He grew up in Auburn and the family attended Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross, and then studied for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome.
He was ordained a priest on July 2, 1988, by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington in St. Paul Cathedral where he served briefly as associate pastor. After completing a Licentiate in Canon Law he then served as associate pastor at St. Anne’s Parish in Shrewsbury before again taking up studies in Rome in 1992 at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and at the Gregorian University, where he earned a doctorate in Canon Law in 1994.
He then entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See (the term for the Catholic Church in the international order) in July 1994 and served in the apostolic nunciatures both in Bolivia and Nigeria, and at the Vatican Secretariat of State, where he was desk officer for Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia and Romania. He was named a Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of monsignor on Jan 11, 1996 by Blessed Pope John Paul II and later a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI.
On Jan. 22, 2007 Pope Benedict appointed him as permanent representative/observer of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other international organizations under the United Nations.
Before he resigned Pope Benedict, on Feb. 22, 2013, named Msgr. Banach, a Vatican diplomat, to be an apostolic nuncio, or ambassador of the Pope, which carries with it the title of archbishop. Pope Francis appointed him to Papua New Guinea.
Archbishop-designate Russell was born in Greenfield, Mass., May 2, 1959, but raised in Alpena, Michigan. He attended St. John’s Seminary in Boston and was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1987. After working in a parish, he became personal secretary to Cardinal Bernard F. Law, then-archbishop of Boston.
While the Vatican continues to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it has not sent an ambassador to Taiwan in more than 30 years.