VATICAN CITY (CNS) — 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, who was born in Liverpool, England, will be the first native English-speaker to hold the post, but he told Catholic News Service, “I don’t think it is particularly significant, though it does indicate that the Holy See is continuing to undertake necessary innovations as the true Catholic identity of the church is reflected in the curia.”
“Without passing judgment on myself,” he said in an email reply to questions, “I believe the criterion has to be the right person for the job irrespective of nationality. The diplomatic service has long been truly international with members from very many countries. Obviously, the proportions tend to reflect the size of a national Catholic community and the number of priestly vocations, so there are big groups of Vatican diplomats from certain countries and smaller groups like Great Britain.”
Archbishop Gallagher, who had been named nuncio to Australia by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, said he expected to begin his new duties at the Vatican in mid-January.
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 cleric, who served as the Vatican permanent observer at the Council of Europe from 2000 to 2004.
Known for his efforts to continue providing pastoral ministry while serving as nuncio in various countries, Archbishop Gallagher told CNS Nov. 11, “I think you have to hold on to a pastoral heart and see things from a pastoral perspective. It will be necessary for me to remember that politics is ultimately about people and their lives.”
He said he hoped to find ways to provide pastoral ministry in Rome even as he serves as the Vatican’s foreign minister.
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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