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Italy to return 23 million euros to Vatican bank

November 19th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In what the Vatican bank described as recognition that it has established serious measures to prevent money laundering, it announced the Italian government has promised to return 23 million euros ($29 million) that had been blocked for more than three years.

Even though the Italian government in 2011 said it was releasing the funds, the Italians believed “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved” and so held on to the funds, said a statement Nov. 18 from the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal name of what is commonly called the Vatican bank.

The Italian treasury police seized the funds, which the institute had deposited in a Rome bank, during a money-laundering investigation. The Vatican repeatedly insisted the deposit was legitimate and that the Vatican bank was committed to “full transparency” in its operations.

“The repatriation” of the funds was possible thanks to “the introduction of a fully fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013,” the Nov. 18 statement said.

The morning after the announcement of the money’s return, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named the Swiss lawyer Rene Brulhart to be president of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Agency. Brulhart had served as director of the agency since November 2012.

He succeeds Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, a canon lawyer and head of the Vatican human resources office; Pope Francis had named the bishop interim president of the agency in January.

The Financial Intelligence Authority monitors the financial and commercial activity of all Vatican entities, including the so-called Vatican bank, to ensure transactions cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

 

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Pope condemns attack on Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshippers, policeman

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship,” after an attack in a synagogue left four worshippers, a policeman and the two attackers dead.

At the end of his general audience Nov. 19, the day after the attack on the synagogue, Pope Francis said he was following “with concern the alarming increase of tensions in Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land.”

Jewish worshippers covered in prayer shawls pray Nov. 19 at a synagogue in Jerusalem where two Palestinian militants killed four rabbis and a policeman. Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship.”  (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

Jewish worshippers covered in prayer shawls pray Nov. 19 at a synagogue in Jerusalem where two Palestinian militants killed four rabbis and a policeman. Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable episodes of violence” in Jerusalem, episodes that “do not spare even places of worship.” (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

The pope offered prayers for the victims of the attack carried out by two Palestinian cousins from East Jerusalem and for all those suffering the consequences of the attack.

“From the depths of my heart,” he said, “I appeal to those involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and make courageous decisions in favor of reconciliation and peace.”

“Making peace is difficult,” he said, “but living without peace is a torment.”

Shortly after the early morning synagogue attack, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem called for an end to all violence in the Holy Land.

“We are praying and waiting. We are sad,” said Patriarch Twal. “We must, all people of responsibility, politicians and religious leaders, do our best in our positions to condemn this violence and avoid as much as possible the causes which lead other people to violence.”

The attack occurred in the Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem, which is popular with the Anglo-Orthodox Jewish community. Three of the dead worshippers had dual Israeli-American citizenship; one had Israeli-British citizenship.

The two perpetrators of the attacks were killed at the scene by Israeli police.

“Violence leads to more violence,” Patriarch Twal told Catholic News Service. He said he sent condolences to the families of all the victims of the recent wave of violence that has rocked Jerusalem as Israel moves toward expanding Jewish settlements in the area and Palestinians fear a Jewish presence on the shared holy site of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem’s Old City.

According to a tenuous and contested status quo agreement, Jews are allowed to visit the site where, according to Jewish tradition, the Biblical Jewish temple stood and, but they are not allowed to pray there. According to Muslim tradition, it is the site where Muhammad ascended into heaven.

A day prior to the synagogue attack, a Palestinian bus driver who worked for an Israeli cooperative was found hanged in his bus at the terminal. Israeli police called the death a suicide after a medical investigation, but the man’s family and the Palestinian media maintain that it was a lynching. Some have said the synagogue killings were in retaliation for his death.

“You can’t occupy and then think people (will be quiet),” Patriarch Twal said, referring to Israel occupation of Palestinian lands. “We are against any kind of violence either from a state group or private groups.”

“We are in a very bad situation and condemn the violence and assure the families who have lost loved ones of our prayers,” he added. “It is very sad.”

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land expressed “shock and horror” at the attack, calling it “horrendous.”

“Such murderous deeds, especially in a house of worship, are the ultimate abuse of religion,” said a statement from the council, which represents Israel’s chief rabbinate, the Palestinian Authority Shariah courts, and local Christian leaders. “We call on all religious political and civic leaders to do their utmost to prevent the local political conflict from being turned into a religious war, the consequences of which will be disastrous for all.”

The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches general secretary, expressed concern and sadness over the attack.

“There is a particular horror in any such attack which takes place at a place of worship. I condemn this violence unequivocally, as I do all violence between the peoples and communities of this region which has seen so much bloodshed in the name of religion,” he said. “Violence, collective punishments and communal attacks can only further damage the prospects of peace and justice for all.’

Israelis were shocked by the attack on the worshippers, killed as they took part in the daily morning prayers at the popular neighborhood synagogue.

In past weeks, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has been sight of bloody confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians, and synagogues and mosques have been vandalized.

Over recent weeks, several Palestinians have been killed and injured in demonstrations in East Jerusalem, and several Israelis been killed and injured in attacks by Palestinians in the Jerusalem area and Tel Aviv.

Patriarch Twal said Jerusalem is a city of peace, not violence.

He said the recent attacks have shown that the walls built as a security barrier to separate the West Bank do not protect anyone from violence as long as there is occupation and injustice.

“There is no protection with walls. Only dignity and justice for all (will bring security,)” he said. “All this violence took place within the walls. We need more justice and comprehension.”

Patriarch Twal noted that Christians in the Holy Land were preparing to celebrate Christmas and expressed concern that pilgrims would be afraid to come because of the violence.

‘We hope that by Christmastime there will be no more revenge and no more killings,” he said. He asked for prayers for the peace of Jerusalem, the Holy Land and all its inhabitants, so Jerusalem could return to its vocation as the city of peace.

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

 

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Lives in the balance: Pope tells accountants to promote solidarity

November 14th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting with thousands of accountants from around the world, Pope Francis pleaded with them to remember that behind every piece of paper that crosses their desks there are real human beings.

“When money is the aim and reason for every activity and initiative,” he said Nov. 14, everything and everyone is placed at its service, and both solidarity and respect for people decline.

Pope Francis arrives to lead audience with accountants at VaticanSpeaking to about 7,000 people participating in the World Congress of Accountants, Pope Francis said the global financial situation particularly highlights the importance of work and the disaster of unemployment.

“From your professional observation point, you are well aware of the dramatic reality of so many people whose employment is precarious, or who have lost their jobs” and of the “many families that pay the consequences.” Many young people struggle to find their first job and, he said, many immigrants are “forced to work ‘under the table,’ lacking the most basic juridical and economic protections.”

When the economy is so tough, he said, people are tempted to try to defend their own positions and interests “without worrying about the common good and without giving much attention to justice and legality.”

In such situations, he said, accountants and others involved in guaranteeing the smooth functioning of economic activity not only must do their jobs well, but also must promote the greater good by remembering that “behind every piece of paper there is a story, there are faces.”

Christian accountants are called to live up to their profession’s code of ethics, Pope Francis said, but they also are called to “go beyond, which means: reaching out to people in difficulty; exercising creativity to find solutions to problems that seem blocked; and ensuring human dignity is valued in the face of rigid bureaucracy.”

For all accountants, he said, it is not enough to be able to answer questions about a balance sheet. “You must keep alive the value of solidarity as a moral attitude and expression of attention toward others who have legitimate needs.”

Repeating his suspicion that the word “solidarity” has been “thrown out of the dictionary’ and banned from many people’s vocabularies, Pope Francis said that anyone who wants to pass on a better world to future generations will “assume responsibility for promoting a globalization of solidarity.”

 

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Vatican public restrooms to include showers for the homeless

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The archbishop who distributes charity on behalf of Pope Francis has announced that the public restrooms in St. Peter’s Square will include showers where the homeless can wash.

The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told Catholic News Service Nov. 13. “We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too.”

Pope Francis blesses the sculpture "Jesus the Homeless" during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last year. On Nov. 13 the Vatican announced that public restrooms in St. Peter's Square will include showers where the homeless can wash. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis blesses the sculpture “Jesus the Homeless” during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican last year. On Nov. 13 the Vatican announced that public restrooms in St. Peter’s Square will include showers where the homeless can wash. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Several people living on the streets of Rome or in tents say it is not difficult to find a parish or charity that will give them something to eat, but finding a place to wash is much more difficult.

Barbara, a Polish woman who lives in a tent with her teenage son and a companion, said showers in the Vatican’s public restrooms “would be good. We’d thank them if it works.”

Her companion, who calls himself Stefano, said: “I’m a mason without work. I’ll help them build it. No problem.”

The news site Vatican Insider first reported the news that Archbishop Krajewski had asked the office governing Vatican City State to include showers in an already-approved project to remodel the public restrooms in St. Peter’s Square.

The remodeling work and installation of the showers was scheduled to begin Nov. 17. The archbishop said the three shower stalls would be located in the public restrooms a few steps north of Bernini’s Colonnade, just behind the Vatican post office.

The archbishop told Vatican Insider that in early October he was talking to a homeless man near the Vatican and discovered it was the man’s 50th birthday. He invited the man to a restaurant for dinner, but the man declined, saying a restaurant would not let him in because of his odor.

Sitting on the steps of the Vatican press office Nov. 13, Barbara and Stefano were discussing the plans with a small group of Polish friends, and expressing some doubts about it to reporters.

The Rome diocesan Caritas, the Community of Sant’Egidio and other organizations offer shower facilities to the homeless in Rome, Barbara said, “but there are so many things you have to do. You have to get there at 4 in the morning to sign in. Then only 15 people get in each day.”

In addition, she said, because the number of homeless men is so much greater than the number of homeless women, many of the shower facilities are only for men or are open to women only a half day each week.

Archbishop Krajewski told Vatican Insider that he is visiting parishes in areas where homeless people gather and is encouraging them to install public showers if they have not already. His office will help fund the building, he said.

“It is not simple,” he said. “It is easier to prepare sandwiches than to run a shower service; you need volunteers, towels, clean underwear.”

 

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Absolute seal of confession continues after a penitent dies, Vatican officials say

November 13th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The secrecy of a confession is maintained so seriously and completely by the Catholic Church that a priest would be excommunicated for revealing the contents of a confession when ordered to testify by a court or even after the penitent dies, Vatican officials said.

“No confessor can be dispensed from it, even if he would want to reveal the contents of a confession in order to prevent a serious and imminent evil,” said Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience.

A World Youth Day pilgrim goes to confession at one of several portable confessionals set up at Quinta da Boa Vista park in Rio de Janeiro July 26. The Vatican said this week that the seal of confession extends after the penitent dies.  (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A World Youth Day pilgrim goes to confession at one of several portable confessionals set up at Quinta da Boa Vista park in Rio de Janeiro July 26. The Vatican said this week that the seal of confession extends after the penitent dies. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The penitentiary sponsored a conference at the Vatican Nov. 12-13 on “the confessional seal and pastoral privacy.”

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, conference participants heard that since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 spelled out the penalties in church law for violating the secret of the confessional, “the discipline of the church in this matter has remained substantially the same,” with the exception of additional protections.

One of those additions, the newspaper said, was a 1988 church law explicitly stating that using an “electronic apparatus” to record, broadcast or otherwise share the contents of a confession also is an excommunicable offense.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told conference participants it is important “to remove any suspicion” that the church’s commitment to the confessional seal “is designed to cover intrigues, plots or mysteries as people sometimes naively believe or, more easily, are led to believe.”

The seal, he said, is intended to protect the most intimate part of the human person, “that is, to safeguard the presence of God within each man.” The effect of the secret, he said, is that it also protects a person’s reputation and right to privacy.

The confessional seal, Msgr. Nykiel said, “is binding not only on the confessor, but also on the interpreter, if present, and anyone who in any way, even casually, comes to know of the sins confessed.”

The church, he said, takes the seal so seriously that it forbids, on the pain of excommunication, a priest from testifying in court about what he heard in the confessional, “even if the penitent requests” he testify.

Not even the death of the penitent can absolve the confessor from the obligation to maintain the secret, Msgr. Nykiel said.

 

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Seal of confession is absolute, even after penitent dies, officials say

November 13th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The secrecy of a confession is maintained so seriously and completely by the Catholic Church that a priest would be excommunicated for revealing the contents of a confession when ordered to testify by a court or even after the penitent dies, Vatican officials said.

“No confessor can be dispensed from it, even if he would want to reveal the contents of a confession in order to prevent a serious and imminent evil,” said Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience.

The penitentiary sponsored a conference at the Vatican Nov. 12-13 on “the confessional seal and pastoral privacy.”

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, conference participants heard that since the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 spelled out the penalties in church law for violating the secret of the confessional, “the discipline of the church in this matter has remained substantially the same,” with the exception of additional protections.

One of those additions, the newspaper said, was a 1988 church law explicitly stating that using an “electronic apparatus” to record, broadcast or otherwise share the contents of a confession also is an excommunicable offense.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told conference participants it is important “to remove any suspicion” that the church’s commitment to the confessional seal “is designed to cover intrigues, plots or mysteries as people sometimes naively believe or, more easily, are led to believe.”

The seal, he said, is intended to protect the most intimate part of the human person, “that is, to safeguard the presence of God within each man.” The effect of the secret, he said, is that it also protects a person’s reputation and right to privacy.

The confessional seal, Msgr. Nykiel said, “is binding not only on the confessor, but also on the interpreter, if present, and anyone who in any way, even casually, comes to know of the sins confessed.”

The church, he said, takes the seal so seriously that it forbids, on the pain of excommunication, a priest from testifying in court about what he heard in the confessional, “even if the penitent requests” he testify.

Not even the death of the penitent can absolve the confessor from the obligation to maintain the secret, Msgr. Nykiel said.

 

 

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Pope calls for global defense of Christians facing persecution

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the “absurd violence” being used against Christians in several countries and called on people of good will everywhere to take up the cause of religious freedom. At the end of his general audience Nov. 12, Pope Francis asked the estimated 15,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to join him in reciting the Lord’s Prayer for Christians facing persecution.

Pope Francis is pictured on a sign as he arrives, right, to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis is pictured on a sign as he arrives, right, to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Pope

“With great trepidation, I am following the dramatic incidents of Christians in several parts of the world being persecuted and killed because of their religious beliefs,” the pope said. “I must express my deep spiritual closeness to the Christian communities so harshly struck by an absurd violence that does not show signs of stopping.” Calling on political leaders on the national and international level, as well as on “all people of good will,” Pope Francis urged a global “mobilization of consciences” to protect persecuted Christians. “They have a right to find security and peace in their own countries while freely professing their faith.” In his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued his series on the church and its structure, focusing on the qualities necessary in its ministers. “One does not become a bishop, priest or deacon because he is more intelligent or better than others,” the pope said, “but only because of a gift: God’s gift of love poured out by the power of the Holy Spirit for the good of his people.” The church’s ministers, he said, must be aware of how merciful and compassionate God has been with them, because such honesty makes them “humble and understanding of others.” Recognizing that his call “flows only from God’s mercy and God’s heart” ensures that a minister “will never assume an authoritarian attitude, as if everyone were placed at his feet and as if the community were his property or personal kingdom,” Pope Francis said. “Woe to a bishop, priest or deacon who thinks he knows everything, who thinks he always has the right answer to every question and thinks he does not need anyone,” the pope said. While bishops and priests are called to “courageously safeguard” and share the teachings of the church, they also must recognize that they “always have something to learn, even from those who may still be far from the faith and from the church.” Working together, supporting one another and examining questions together, he said, the church’s ministers will demonstrate “a new attitude, one marked by sharing, co-responsibility and communion.” Pope Francis said St. Paul’s New Testament letters to Timothy and to Titus emphasize how the church’s ministers must have faith and a robust spiritual life – “which cannot be ignored because they are life itself.” But the letters also outline human qualities a minister must have: “acceptance, moderation, patience, meekness, trustworthiness and goodness of heart.” Those human qualities, he said, help the church’s ministers go out to meet others with the attitude of respect necessary for offering “a service and a witness that is truly joyful and credible.”

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Pope sets up panel to speed handling of sex abuse appeals

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has established a special body within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to speed up the process of hearing and ruling on appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Nov. 11 that the members of the doctrinal congregation had been examining an average of four or five appeals, mostly in sex abuse cases, at each of their monthly meetings.

“Because of the number of appeals and the need to guarantee a more rapid examination of them,” Pope Francis has instituted a “college” within the congregation to judge cases involving priests, said a note from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, presenting the text of the papal order.

A case involving a bishop accused of abuse or other serious crimes would continue to be examined and judged by the entire membership of the doctrinal congregation during one of its regular monthly meetings, says the order, officially known as a “rescript.”

Already in May, the Vatican had indicated Pope Francis was establishing the college. In a brief note May 19, the Vatican press office announced the pope had nominated Argentine Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the doctrinal congregation “in the commission being established to examine the appeals of clergy for ‘delicta graviora,’” the Vatican term for sexual abuse of minors and serious sins against the sacraments.

Pope Francis’ order establishing the college said it would be made up of “seven cardinals or bishops,” who may or may not be members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The pope himself will name the members, none of whom was announced when the rescript was published Nov. 11.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told a committee there May 6 that, between 2004 and 2013, the Holy See dismissed 848 priests from the priesthood as a result of sex abuse allegations found to be true. In another 2,572 cases, mainly involving priests of an advanced age, the men were ordered to have no contact with children and were ordered to retreat to a life of prayer and penance.

According to church law, bishops and superiors of religious orders are required to inform the doctrinal congregation of all accusations against priests that have “at least the semblance of truth” and to work under the congregation’s direction in judging the case. However, the congregation itself can conduct the trial or even use an administrative process to remove a man from the priesthood.

 

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Pope Francis hails role of St. John Paul in Berlin Wall’s fall 25 years ago

November 10th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pope Francis said the sudden end to the division of Europe was prepared by the prayers and sacrifice of many people, including St. John Paul II.

After reciting the Angelus prayer Nov. 9 with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down, a wall “that for so long cut the city in two and was a symbol of the ideological division of Europe and of the entire world.”

People stand atop the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in this Nov. 10, 1989, file photo.. (CNS/Reuters)

People stand atop the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in this Nov. 10, 1989, file photo.. (CNS/Reuters)

“The fall was sudden, but it was made possible by the long and hard commitment of many people who struggled, prayed and suffered for it, some even sacrificing their lives,” the pope said. St. John Paul II, he said, had “a role as protagonist” in the change.

During his lifetime, the Polish-born pope refused to claim personal credit for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, but he knew his preaching and his support for human dignity and freedom energized the forces for change, particularly in his homeland.

In a 1993 interview, Pope John Paul said, “I think the crucial role was played by Christianity itself: its content, its religious and moral message, its intrinsic defense of the human person. All I did was recall this, repeat it and insist on it.”

Pope Francis, commemorating the wall’s fall, asked Catholics to pray that “with the help of the Lord and the collaboration of all people of good will, there will spread even more a culture of encounter capable of bringing down all the walls still dividing the world.”

The pope also prayed for an end to “innocent persons being persecuted and even killed because of their creed or religion.”

“Where there is a wall,” he said, “there is a closed heart. We need bridges, not walls.”

 

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Pope names Liverpool native the Vatican’s foreign minister

By

Catholic News Service

forVATICAN CITY — Pope Francis named the 60-year-old nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, to be the Vatican’s new foreign minister.

The position, formally known as the secretary for relations with states, was held by the Morocco-born French Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who was named Nov. 8 the new prefect of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s highest court.

Archbishop Gallagher, a native of Liverpool, England, is a veteran of the Vatican diplomatic corps and had been named nuncio to Australia by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

In his first posting as a nuncio, St. John Paul II sent him to Burundi in 2004 to replace Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, who was gunned down by unknown assailants. The nuncio’s death in Burundi marked the first time in the modern age that a papal ambassador had been assassinated.

In an interview with Catholic News Service in 2000, then-Msgr. Gallagher said that although an ambassador’s life is filled with protocol, social niceties and cocktail parties, the Vatican foreign service counts less on “social animals” than on good priests.

The Holy See looks for “someone who can express his priesthood through his diplomatic work,” said the Liverpool-born cleric, who served as the Vatican permanent observer at the Council of Europe from 2000 to 2004.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1977, he later earned a degree in canon law and studied at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains Vatican diplomats. He joined the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1984, serving in nunciatures in Tanzania, Uruguay and the Philippines. He worked at the Vatican Secretariat of State from 1994 to 2000, focusing particularly on Southeast Asia.

From 2009 to 2012, he served as nuncio to Guatemala.

The Archbishop Mamberti, 62, also is a veteran of the Vatican diplomatic corps and has been secretary for relations with states since September 2006.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1981, he holds degrees in civil and canon law. After entering the Vatican diplomatic corps in 1986, he held posts in Algeria, Chile, at the United Nations in New York, and in Lebanon. He was named an archbishop, nuncio to Sudan and apostolic delegate in Somalia in 2002 by St. John Paul II and was given additional responsibilities two years later as the nuncio to Eritrea.

 

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