Moscow link established by Rome
by Viviane Hewitt in Rome THE Holy See's new Apostolic Nuncio to Moscow, Archbishop Francesco Colasuonno, was also being tipped in Rome this week to succeed Cardinal Agostino Casaroli as Secretary of State within the next three years.
Unofficial Vatican reports last month had predicted that Mgr Colasuonno, 65, Pope John Paul II's special ambassador to eastern Europe since 1985, was destined to become the Holy See's first diplomatic representative to the Soviet Union since the October Revolution interrupted diplomatic relations in 1917 (Catholic Herald, March 2). The Vatican's decision not to
nominate the South Italian prelate to Warsaw as nuncio earlier this year, although Mgr Colasuonno had been instrumental in formulating diplomatic protocols with the Pope's homeland, reinforced speculation that he would be posted to Moscow.
In his place to Poland went Mgr Jozef Kowaiczyk, a Polishborn diplomat at the Secretariat of State's General Affairs Office.
Now after his appointment to the nunciature currently considered the Church's most prestigious, Mgr Colasuonno is believed to be a possible candidate for Vatican Secretary of State when Cardinal Casaroli retires.
Last November, the Pope refused to accept the cardinal's resignation on his 75th birthday. John Paul is thought to have asked Casaroli, the "father" of the Vatican's 25-year-long Ostpolitik, to stay on until full diplomatic relations had been restored with the Soviet Union and until the Pope visited Moscow, a possibility in 1992.
The Soviet Union in its turn announced the nomination of Yuri Karlov, aged 52, a Vatican and Mediterranean Europe expert with the Soviet Foreign Ministry, as "special" ambassador to the Holy See. Both nominations, which coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev's confirmation as President of the Soviet Union with 59 per cent of the vote, do not yet constitute fully-fledged diplomatic relations.
For now, neither Karlov nor Mgr Colasuonno will present their credentials to the two heads of state and neither are they required to reside permanently either in Moscow or Rome. It is known, however, that the Vatican is negotiating the purchase of a building in Moscow.
Mgr Colasuonno's first task is expected to be a systematic tour round the three Baltic Republics of the Soviet Union where Catholics number about 12 million, eight million of Latin rite and four million of Oriental.
Another priority will be preparations for an eventual papal visit.
The Vatican described the nominations as pre-diplomatic relations and the mechanism has no precedent in the Holy See's foreign policy.
"For now, it was of fundamental interest to find a working formula for the two objectives indicated by the Pope and President Gorbachev — to facilitate permanent dialogue on matters of mutual interest and to contribute to useful cooperation internationally", a Vatican spokesman said.
While Mgr Colasuonno was travelling between east European capitals to forge closer links with the Holy See, his counterpart Karlov was also representing the Soviet Foreign Ministry with the same aim.
It was Karlov, who speaks excellent Italian, who presented the Pope with a letter from Gorbachev last August in reply to John Paul's message to the Soviet leader of a year before. Karlov preceeded Gorbachev to Rome by four months. In an historical and emotional encounter on December 1 last year, Gorbachev and the Pope came face to face in the Vatican.