Holy Father recalls life of Cardinal Pio Laghi, first U.S. papal nuncio


Concluding today's funeral Mass for Cardinal Pio Laghi, the first papal nuncio to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the career of the prelate who died on Sunday, January 11 at the age of 86 after battling a long illness.

At the end of  the Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodao, dean of the College of Cardinals, Benedict XVI recalled the various stages in the life of the cardinal beginning with his birth into a family that gave him a “sound human and Christian formation,” and which he described in his spiritual testament as 'Christian, Catholic, hardworking and honest'."  He then attended school in Faenza, Italy before going on to study at the Major Pontifical Seminary of Rome. 

After his priestly ordination in 1946, Cardinal Laghi studied theology and canon law at Rome's Lateran University before beginning “his long itinerary of diplomatic and pastoral work" in the apostolic nunciatures to Nicaragua, U.S.A. and India, after which he returned to the Secretariat of State for five years, the Pope explained.

 In 1969, the same year he was ordained to the episcopacy, Paul VI appointed him as delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, pro-nuncio to Cyprus and apostolic visitor to Greece.  Five years later, he was appointed as apostolic nuncio to Argentina. He remained there until 1980 when he took the office of apostolic delegate to the United States. "It was during those years," Pope Benedict recalled, "that official relations were established between the Holy See and the U.S. government."

In 1991, Cardinal Laghi was appointed as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education due to his “long experience and knowledge of the Church," Benedict XVI related.  Two years later he was also given the title of patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Pope Benedict then took time to point out the “special missions” entrusted to Cardinal Laghi such as cosigning a pontifical Message to Israeli and Palestinian authorities in May 2001 which encouraged an immediate cease-fire, and also delivering a pontifical Message to U.S. President George W. Bush "explaining the Holy See's position and initiatives to contribute to disarmament and peace in the Middle East.” 

These were “delicate missions,” explained the Pope "which he, as always, sought to fulfill with faithful dedication to Christ and His Church."

The Holy Father then concluded his tribute by emphasizing how Cardinal Laghi’s death reaffirms our hope in Salvation.  "At the moment in which we bid him farewell, our hearts are moved by the firm hope which ... 'is full of immortality,' the same hope that illuminated the priestly and apostolic life of Cardinal Pio Laghi."

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