BY FREDDY GRAY
POPE John Paul has appointed a new Apostolic Nuncio for Great Britain, the Vatican press office has announced.
Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, a 67-year-old Spaniard, has accepted the invitation to become the Pope’s ambassador in this country. It is uncertain when he will take up his new post, but Fr Vincent Brady, private secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, said that the new nuncio is expected to arrive in London at some point during the new year.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, welcomed the appointment.
“His experience and wisdom will be of enormous value to us at a time of challenge and opportunity in the life of the Church in our country,” he said this week.
In his new post, Archbishop Sainz is certain to play an important role in the future of the British Church. Papal nuncios are responsible for sending ternas – lists of three candidates for an episcopal appointment – to Rome. All new bishops or archbishops should therefore be clerics favoured by the nuncio. Archbishop Sainz was born in Almadén, southern Spain, and ordained a priest in 1967.
He entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1970, and worked for the Church in Senegal and Scandinavia before serving in the Vatican secretariat of state’s council of public affairs.
In 1988 he was appointed pro-nuncio to Cuba and four years later he became apostolic nuncio to the Congo. In 1999, he returned to Europe to serve as pro-nuncio to the European Community in Brussels, where he worked until his appointment as nuncio to this country. Archbishop Sainz speaks English, Italian and French.
He replaces Archbishop Pablo Puente, another Spaniard, who retired in October after seven years as the Pope’s ambassador in this country.
Archbishop Puente’s retirement came two years before he was expected to step down; he was 73 years old and prelates are not usually expected to retire until they are 75. The abrupt nature of his departure prompted speculation that he had been pushed out of office.
Vatican insiders have suggested that Archbishop Puente took early retirement after his ternas were rejected by Rome because his nominees were allegedly too progressive for the conservative tastes of the Roman Curia.
Some observers, therefore, are expecting the new nuncio to be more of a traditionalist than his predecessor.
Shortly before returning to Spain to serve as a parish priest, Archbishop Puente gave his first and only public interview in this country with Briefing magazine, the official (but now defunct) magazine of the bishops of England and Wales. The archbishop was well known for shying away from both the Catholic and secular Press.
In the interview, the departing nuncio revealed a strong opposition to the war in Iraq, his affection for British society, and a fondness for liberation theology, the Marxistinfluenced movement that flourished in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s.