Monsignor Michael Ryan, Administrator of the Diocese of Ossory, has paid tribute to the late Archbishop Thomas White, Titular Archbishop of Sabiona, formerly of Durrow and former Papal Nuncio to Rwanda, Ethiopia and New Zealand
Monsignor Ryan said, “It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of a former priest of the Diocese of Ossory and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Thomas A White”.
He added, “Archbishop White lived out his life and ministry in service of the Gospel and it is clear from reading the details of his life and ministry that he gave much to the Church in the world following his studies for the priesthood here in Kilkenny and in Rome.”
Archbishop Thomas White was born to a family of five in August 1931. His early education took place in Cullohill National School, Laois, and later at Saint Keiran’s College, Kilkenny, where he enjoyed academic and sporting success and was part of the College’s senior hurling team who won Leinster Championships in 1949 and 1950.
Archbishop White studied for the priesthood in Saint Kieran’s College and later in Rome until his ordination for the Diocese on 25 February 1956 and spent the next two years at the Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica in preparation for a career in the diplomatic service of the Holy See.
Following graduation, then Monsignor White was sent as Secretary to what was then the Apostolic Delegation of Eastern Africa, covering territory from Kuwait to the Zambezi, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, where he would spend the next five years working alongside Archbishop Guido del Mestri in preparing the region for decolonisation and establishing Nunciatures in the countries following independence.
In 1965, Archbishop White was transferred to the Nunciature in Guatemala, and in 1967 moved to Colombia to prepare for the visit Pope Paul VI in August 1968 for the Eucharistic Congress in Bogotá and the Plenary Assembly of the Latin American Bishops in Medellín. In 1970 he was posted to Switzerland as Counsellor of the Nunciature in Berne and also acted as Observer of the Holy See at various United Nations and other International Agencies in Geneva and in 1974 received his first Head of Mission appointment as Chargé d’Affaires in the Apostolic Nunciature for China.
In 1978 he was ordained as Titular Archbishop of Sabiona and returned to Africa, this time as Apostolic Nuncio in Rwanda. In 1983 he was transferred to Nuncio in Ethiopia, where he served for six years, during which he was responsible for coordinating contributions from countries and charities in the face of three terrible famines. Finally in 1989 he was asked to serve as Apostolic Nuncio in New Zealand.
Following his retirement, Archbishop White moved back to Saint Kieran’s College to be close to his family. He is survived by his sister Alice, his brother Liam, his brother-in-law Edward, and his nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces.
Monsignor Ryan concluded his tribute saying, “I invite the faithful to pray for all those who mourn him and for the happy repose of his soul.
“Ar dhies Dé go raibh a anam dilis.”