Francis' papacy a golden age for diplomats

Raft of postings

Francis has shown himself to being gifted at being the global ambassador for Catholicism, which may help explain why he seems to turn to churchmen with a strong diplomatic background to fill key roles, writes John Allen in NCR.

Indeed, one surprising twist to his papacy is that it seems to be shaping up as a golden age for Vatican diplomats.

Not long ago, conventional wisdom had it that the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio was bad news for the Secretariat of State, the Vatican's ultra-powerful coordinating department, which is typically led by veterans of the diplomatic corps. Frustration with perceived dysfunction in the Secretariat of State, symbolized by the Vatican leaks scandal, was a large part of the reason why the cardinals elected a Latin American outsider in the first place.

Some clipping of the wings is indeed underway. Naming a council of eight cardinals as advisers probably means the Secretariat of State won't be this pope's primary sounding board, and because Francis is living in the Casa Santa Marta rather than the Apostolic Palace, the Secretariat of State doesn't have the same capacity to act as a gatekeeper.

Yet as Francis has made important personnel decisions during his first seven months, his fondness for diplomats has become unmistakable:

On June 15, Francis named a personal delegate to the troubled Vatican bank, turning to Italian Msgr. Battista Ricca, a veteran Vatican diplomat who served in Congo, Algeria, Colombia, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago, and who later returned to Rome to direct four clerical residences, including the Casa Santa Marta. Even after sensational charges in the Italian press that Ricca had engaged in gay affairs while in Uruguay, Francis has stuck by his man.

On July 24, Francis named Leo Cushley the new archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland, probably the lone appointment in the English-speaking world so far in which the new pope was directly involved. It was a keenly anticipated choice because of the scandals surrounding Cardinal Keith O'Brien, and to fill the role, Francis turned to the head of the English-language desk in the Secretariat of State and a former Vatican envoy in Egypt, Burundi, Portugal, South Africa and the UN.

FULL STORY Francis's romance with diplomats

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