.- This morning, Pope Benedict appointed Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, current Auxiliary of Rome and the rector of the city's Pontifical Lateran University, as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Bishop Fisichella, who has also been elevated to archbishop, succeeds Bishop Elio Sgreccia who resigned after reaching the age of 75, the mandatory age for resignation.
Born in Codogno in Northern Italy on August 25 1951; Salvatore "Rino" Fisichella was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Rome on March 13,1976; was appointed Auxiliary of Rome on July 31, 1998 and was named Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University on January 18, 2002.
He is also a member of two congregations within the Roman Curia: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Well-known for his dialogue with non-Catholic intellectuals, he was instrumental in the conversion to Catholicism of one of the most noted Italian Muslims, Magdi Alam; who was received into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict during the 2008 Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica.
He is also recognized for his friendship with controversial Italian writer, journalist and political interviewer Oriana Fallaci, a self-proclaimed agnostic who was known for being strongly opposed to abortion and harshly critical of Islamic presence in Italy.
After Fallaci was diagnosed with cancer, Bishop Fisichella intensified his dialogue with her regarding faith issues and on August 29, 2005, he brought the writer to a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
In the wake of Fallaci's death on September 15, 2006, some Italian media speculated that she had come back into communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Fisichella, nevertheless, rejected any request to discuss Fallaci's final days, insisting on the author's desire for total privacy.
The Italian media have described Fisichella as someone "who has always held very strong positions on issues like homosexual unions, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, becoming a frequent participant in television debates on the issue, but never loosing his calmness and great respect for those dissenting with his position."