VATICAN CITY (SNR) – Msgr. Richard Gyhra, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, was privileged to be part of a small group that met Pope Francis in a private audience Nov. 18.
Prior to his assignment in the Secretariat of State in Rome, Msgr. Gyhra served as a diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. While there he had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of his colleagues in the drafting and editing of numerous interventions of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See which were collected and published by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi.
Tomasi, who served as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva from 2003 until his retirement in February 2016, came up with the idea to organize a collection of the more important statements and interventions into a work entitled: “The Vatican in the Family of Nations: Diplomatic Actions of the Holy See at the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva.” Msgr. Gyhra assisted in the drafting of many of the statements and was involved in the editing process of the volume.
The publication demonstrates the active role of the Holy See in the various international organizations and institutions in Geneva, particularly in the areas of nuclear disarmament, human rights, religious freedom, trade and intellectual property, health, migration and refugees, among others.
In addition to being an excellent reference tool for those engaged in academic pursuits in these areas, Msgr. Gyhra said the work reveals a development of the application of the principles of Catholic social doctrine to the wide and complex range of rapidly changing international issues.
“Those of us who worked on the project were received by Pope Francis and we presented him a copy of the book,” Msgr. Gyhra explained. He said the seven of them met the Holy Father in his residence at Casa Santa Marta. The audience lasted nearly 30 minutes and Msgr. Gyhra said the Holy Father was in “very good form,” and even joked with the group.
“In fact, he asked me where I work and I told him that I work just down the hallway from him in the Apostolic Palace.” Earlier this year Msgr. Gyhra was appointed to work at the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, and moved from Geneva to Rome to take up his current assignment.
The Holy Father then asked Msgr. Gyhra if he served in the diplomatic service. When the monsignor responded in the affirmative, the Pope grinned and asked “How is it that you are working here and I have not seen you and don’t know who you are?” Msgr. Gyhra replied “I try to do my work in a hidden and invisible way,” to which the Holy Father laughed.
Msgr. Gyhra works in the Second Section of the Secretariat of State which deals with “Relations with States,” effectively the ‘Foreign Ministry’ of the Holy See. He serves as a desk officer in the sector on multilateral diplomacy which involves the Holy See’s work with the United Nations, especially the activity of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.
Msgr. Gyhra, ordained in 1999, also met Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. That meeting too left him with a story to tell. Pope Benedict XVI asked where he was from, and when Monsignor responded that he was from Lincoln, the pope said “Ah, Bishop Bruskewitz… You are blessed to have learned from one of the best.”
A native of the Pawnee City area, Msgr. Gyhra did not expect to enter the diplomatic corps when he became a priest. He initially went to Rome in 2005 to study moral theology, and was later asked to enter the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, which is dedicated to training priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.
“While it is an honor to represent the Holy See as a diplomat,” Msgr. Gyhra said, “it is also an honor to represent, in some fashion, the Diocese of Lincoln on the universal level of the Church.”
Although relatively small, he said “the Diocese of Lincoln is well known in Rome, for its fidelity to the Magisterium, for the number of vocations and its generosity.”
The generosity of the diocese to lend priests to work in the Holy See is much appreciated and, as Msgr. Gyhra said “is constantly being sought after by those responsible for finding curial officials and future diplomats for the Holy See.”