The appointment on Saturday of Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt as the Holy See’s new permanent observer at the United Nations looks to have been an inspired choice by the Holy Father.

His previous postings, both at the UN and in the Middle East, appear to have primed him well for the post which will require standing up to radical feminist and pro-abortion groups in New York, as well as continuing cooperation with the UN on common issues of concern.

Originally from Bolghatty, India, Archbishop Chullikatt has been apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan since 2006, during which time he fought hard to protect Christians in the region from persecution. He was particularly outspoken earlier this year, calling for international solidarity and support from local authorities after a number of Christians were murdered by Muslim extremists in northern Iraq.

The 57 year old archbishop already has many contacts at the Holy See’s mission in New York having served there as counsellor from 1999-2004. He’ll be the first non-Italian to hold the position.

Despite his name, Francis Assisi Chullikatt is not a Franciscan but a diocesan priest of the Varapuzha archdiocese. Ordained in 1978, he has also served in Honduras, various countries in southern Africa, and the Philippines. He replaces Archbishop Celestino Migliore whom the Pope appointed as the new apostolic nuncio to Poland last month.

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) which lobbies the UN on pro-life issues, warmly welcomed news of Chullikatt’s appointment. “Archbishop Chullikatt is well known here and well loved,” he said. “He is a very brave man, having spent so many years in a war zone. We also know he is a fighter - yes a fighter - for the right to life. We await his arrival with great joy.”

Others who know him well say he is not afraid to speak out but that his courage is tempered by wisdom and prudence. “He’s not a loose cannon,” said a former colleague who worked with him in New York.

The Church has to defend human life on many fronts at the UN which is often used by pro-abortion and anti-life advocates to further their agenda. Last week, the General Assembly voted to consolidate four separate UN bodies dedicated to women’s issues into one new gender equality entity called “UN Women.” According to C-FAM, the resolution “capped a victory for radical feminists who lobbied for years for the new entity.” The new body is likely to be used to push for a global right to abortion.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is already pushing for such a right through the UN, and earlier this year the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) called for a new “right” to maternal health (including abortion), ostensibly to help prevent clandestine abortions.

As a non-member observer state, the Holy See enjoys the rights of other members but cannot vote on UN General Assembly resolutions.