Pope Benedict XVI made two key Vatican appointments this morning.
The first was that of Archbishop Fernando Filoni who becomes the new prefect at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He replaces Cardinal Ivan Dias who has stepped down at the age of 75.
Like his predecessor, Archbishop Filoni is a trained Vatican diplomat. He was Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq during the war there and remained in the country during the allied invasion of 2003. He served briefly as nuncio to the Philippines in 2006 before coming to Rome in 2007 at the request of the Holy Father and, specifically, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.
Otherwise known as Propagande Fide, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is one of the Curia’s most important and influential dicasteries, responsible for directing and coordinating the spreading of the Gospel and missionary activity around the world. Its origins date back to 1659 and its prefect has commonly been known as the “Red Pope” on account of the importance of his position.
Cardinal Dias submitted his resignation to the Pope last month. Although he could, in theory, have continued as prefect beyond the retiring age of cardinals, he has suffered from poor health for some time and so asked to step down. As the first ever Asian head of Propagande Fide with extensive experience of serving the Church in Africa, the cardinal was able to bring to the position a great deal of knowledge of both continents, ones which have the greatest missionary activity.
Archbishop Filoni, 65, now leaves his post as “Sostituto” of General Affairs of the Secretariat of State – an important position which involves the day-to-day running of the Vatican. The Holy Father announced today he will be replaced by Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 62, who until now has served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Cuba.
Archbishop Becciu entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1984 and has served as a Vatican diplomat in various African countries, the United States, New Zealand, Britain, and France. In 2001 Bl. Pope John Paul II appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Angola, São Tomé e Principe. In 2009, Benedict XVI appointed him as his representative in Havana.