Apostolic Nuncio

Apostolic Nuncios
by Fr. Larry Rice  (source USCCB)

In order to ensure the smooth functioning of a worldwide
community of faith and to facilitate relations
with the civil governments of the world, the Catholic
Church maintains one of the largest diplomatic corps
in the world. Although its origins lie in the centuries
when the Church was itself a civil and political
power, today the Vatican’s diplomatic corps serves
other purposes.

The chief ambassador at a Vatican embassy is the
Apostolic Nuncio. Usually a bishop or archbishop, the
Nuncio has the same diplomatic duties as any other
ambassador, but also serves as a conduit between the
local Church and the Roman Curia. These duties may
include recommending the appointment of bishops,
monitoring human rights issues, and serving as an
impartial mediator.

In many countries, the Apostolic Nuncio is regarded as the “dean” of the local diplomatic
community and is given honorary precedence in many matters of protocol. The Vienna Convention
on Diplomatic Relations provides that, “Except as concerns precedence and etiquette, there shall be no differentiation between heads of mission by reason of their class” (article 14[2]), but the Convention also states, “This article is without prejudice to any practice accepted by the receiving State regarding the precedence of the representative of the Holy See” (article 16[3]).

His Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, is the current Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and has been serving in that capacity since October 2011.  His residence, called a nunciature, in Washington, DC, will also be home to Pope Francis during his September 22-24, 2015, visit to the city.

Fr. Rice is Vocations Director for the Paulist Fathers.


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