.- Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 70, was appointed today by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as his official representative to the United States.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the appointment “yet another sign” of the great care the Pope has for the U.S. and its Catholic community.
“As the personal representative of our Holy Father, you will serve as a continuing sign to us of that source of renewal and hope that Pope Benedict brought to our country,” said Archbishop Dolan in an Oct. 19 letter welcoming the new nuncio.
Archbishop Viganò will succeed Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died in July from complications that developed after he underwent lung surgery.
As papal nuncio, he will serve as the Pope’s personal representative to the Church in the United States. He will carry out diplomatic duties and will also play an important role in selecting new bishops in the U.S.
The position of papal nuncio to the United States is viewed as a key diplomatic position for the Vatican.
Born in the northern Italian town of Varese, Archbishop Viganò was ordained a priest in 1968 and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1973. He has served in diplomatic missions to Iraq, Great Britain and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The archbishop has also served as the nuncio to Nigeria, and he has worked for more than a decade in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
Most recently, he has served for two years as secretary-general of the commission governing the Vatican city-state.
In his Oct. 19 letter, Archbishop Dolan recalled Pope Benedict’s comments during his 2008 visit to the United States. The Holy Father noted the “excellent contribution” of American Catholics to their country and expressed hope that his visit might bring “renewal and hope for the Church in the United States.”
The archbishop pledged the “prayerful support” of the United States bishops as Archbishop Viganò begins his mission of continuing that renewal of the American Church.
With nearly four decades of diplomatic service for the Holy See, the new papal nuncio possesses “a depth of understanding of the role of the Church in a pluralistic society,” said Archbishop Dolan.
He added that the Church in the U.S. will benefit from Archbishop Viganò’s “training in both canon law and civil law.”
“They will enable you to see the intricacies involved in representing the Holy Father in both the Church and diplomatic worlds, especially now as they are lived out in America’s democratic society,” he said.
Archbishop Dolan also invited the new nuncio to attend the fall plenary session of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in Baltimore this November.
“The meeting is a moment of prayer, business and fellowship and we look forward to welcoming you on this occasion,” he said.