Archbishop Charles D. Balvo, who was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, began his term as apostolic nuncio to Kenya April 12.
Kenyan Catholic officials welcomed Archbishop Balvo, 61, during ceremonies as the Kenya Episcopal Conference gathered in Nairobi for a meeting in the capital.
Archbishop Balvo was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI in January. He succeeds Archbishop Alain Paul Lebeaupin, who now is nuncio to the European Union in Brussels.
Since 2005, Archbishop Balvo has served as nuncio to several countries in the Pacific region, including New Zealand.
Archbishop Balvo has been a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1987. He previously served in the apostolic nunciatures in Lithuania, Jordan, the Czech Republic and Ghana.
Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi led a group of bishops in welcoming Archbishop Balvo, saying the appointment of a new nuncio symbolized the unity of the Church in Kenya with the universal Church.
"The country has been waiting anxiously for this day of days," Cardinal Njue said. "This day is also special in that it is coming at a time when the bishops are having their plenary assembly. I hope his excellency can find time to meet the bishops during their meeting."
Archbishop Balvo said was looking forward to his service under Pope Francis, who was elected March 12.
"The name of the Holy Father, Francis, is of great symbolic meaning, especially as it is associated with St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a humble, simple life. His appointment has generated a lot of excitement around the world," the nuncio said.
Archbishop Balvo was ordained to the episcopacy by Cardinal Egan at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on June 29, 2005.
A native of Brooklyn, Archbishop Balvo grew up in Suffern, where he is a graduate of Sacred Heart School.
He studied at Cathedral College, both in Manhattan and in Queens, before studying theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained for the archdiocese in 1976.
He served at Sacred Heart parish, Newburgh, 1976-1981, and then at St. John the Evangelist, Mahopac, for a year.
Archbishop Balvo said he had met Pope Francis before embarking on his maiden trip to Kenya and was touched by his humility especially when the pope asked for his prayers.
"The Holy Father gave me great words of encouragement. What he seeks from all of us are prayers and support so that he can carry on his mission," Archbishop Balvo said.