Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, died yesterday in Rome, at the age of 76.  Montalvo had served in the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps for nearly fifty years and only retired from his U.S. post in December.

Montalvo who’s most important roles in the U.S. were to maintain relations between the Holy See and the Government of the United States as well as to present possible candidates for Episcopal offices in the U.S., returned to Rome upon his retirement. It was there that he passed away, in a hospice run by the Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., according to the Catholic News Service.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, announced the archbishop’s death.  Sodano said on Vatican Radio, to “pray to the Lord, provider of all goodness, to grant eternal rest (to Archbishop Montalvo).” 

The Vatican announced that a wake will be held at the tomorrow for the remains of Archbishop Montalvo at the Chapel of Santa Maria in the Vatican and that the funeral Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Sodano at the Altar of the Chair, in St. Peter’s Basilica, on Saturday.

Montalvo was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1930.  He was ordained a priest in 1953 and a bishop in 1974. 

The archbishop often took on challenging roles.  In the late sixties and early seventies Montalvo served at the Secretary of State in an office which worked with Eastern European countries still under the oppression of Communism.  After being ordained a bishop, he took over the Nunciature in Honduras and Nicaragua. He also was a major player in the brokering of a peace agreement between Argentina and Chile in the nineteen eighties   Montalvo served as the apostolic representative to mostly Muslim Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya and in 1986 Montalvo was moved to the splintering country of Yugoslavia.

During the mid-nineties, he also served as the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican’s diplomatic school.

Montalvo's term in the United States came during the last years of the Pontificate of John Paul II and he was faced with helping manage tensions surrounding the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which was opposed by the Holy See, as well as the fallout resulting from a major sex scandal in the American church.

According to CNS, Archbishop Montalvo was reported to have been suffering from lung cancer.