Catholic News Service reports that Cardinal Tauran, a 28-year veteran of the Vatican's diplomatic service, is known as a savvy and sometimes outspoken specialist in international affairs. For 13 years, he was Pope John Paul II's "foreign minister," the official who dealt with all aspects of the Vatican's foreign policy.
Pope Benedict announced the appointment during a 25 June visit to the Vatican Library and the Vatican Secret Archives, two institutions Cardinal Tauran has headed since 2003.
In his new role, the cardinal will be responsible for overseeing the Vatican's dialogue efforts with representatives of other faiths, including Muslims.
Last year the pope placed the interreligious council under the wing of the Pontifical Council for Culture, leading to speculation that he intended to downgrade the Vatican's interfaith efforts.
By placing Cardinal Tauran in charge of the dialogue council, the pope has instead raised its profile.
Although most of his diplomatic work was behind the scenes, Cardinal Tauran is perhaps best remembered in the US for his pointed criticism of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
During the buildup to the invasion, the Cardinal criticised the concept of preventive war and said a unilateral war against Iraq would be a "crime against peace."
Over the years, Cardinal Tauran was called upon many times to spell out the Vatican's position on the Holy Land, which is home to Christians, Muslims and Jews. In 1998, he miffed Israeli leaders when he said Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem was illegal and a matter of "manifest international injustice."
More recently, in 2004, Cardinal Tauran addressed a conference on Muslim-Christian dialogue in Qatar. He told participants that political leaders have nothing to fear from true religious believers.
"Believers who are recognised and respected for who they are will be more inclined to work together for a society of which they are full members," he said.
Pope John Paul II ordained Cardinal Tauran an archbishop in January 1991 and named him a cardinal in 2003.
Pope names French Vatican official to head interreligious council (Catholic News, 25/6/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jean-Louis Pierre Cardinal Tauran (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican.va)
Benedict u-turns on inter-religious dialogue (CathNews, 28/5/07)
Pope begins Vatican Curia shake-up (CathNews, 16/2/06)
Islam not as tolerant as us: Cardinal (CathNews, 2/1/04)
Pope creates new cardinals (CathNews, 22/10/03)