VATICAN CITY — After a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, a seasoned Vatican diplomat who announced Pope Francis’ election to the world in 2013, died Thursday at a hospital in the United States.
According to Italian newspaper Vatican Insider, Cardinal Tauran, who until his July 5 death served as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, had traveled to Connecticut for treatment, staying with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Despite a progressive decline in his health, Cardinal Tauran made a lengthy and historic visit to Saudi Arabia in April to advance the Holy See’s relationship with Saudi authorities and to reinforce dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
Born in Bordeaux, France, in 1943, Tauran turned 75 in April and has a long track record of diplomatic service in the Vatican.
Ordained a priest in September 1969, the late cardinal held licentiate degrees in philosophy and theology, and he also held a degree in canon law.
After serving as parochial vicar for a period of time after his ordination, in 1975, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See when he was named the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
He was then sent as a papal envoy to Lebanon and later represented the Holy See at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, participating in multiple conferences throughout the continent.
In 1988 he was named undersecretary for the then-Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. And in 1991 Pope John Paul II appointed him secretary of the dicastery and made him an archbishop.
In that role, which is equivalent to a foreign minister, he led delegations from the Holy See to numerous international conferences.
The cardinal was appointed archivist and librarian for the Vatican in 2003, and in October of that year was given a red hat by Pope John Paul II.
In 2007, he was named by Pope Benedict XVI as president of the council for interreligious dialogue.
Benedict in 2011 named him “cardinal protodeacon,” a role usually given to a senior prelate who is then tasked with announcing the name of a new pope after his election. Cardinal Tauran held this position when Francis was elected in March 2013, meaning it was his voice that carried the words habemus papam to the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and locals awaiting the announcement in St. Peter’s Square.
After his election, Pope Francis established the Pontifical Referring Commission to the Institute of Religious Works, also called the “Vatican Bank,” to study ways of reforming the institute, and named Cardinal Tauran a member.
In December 2014, Francis named Cardinal Tauran as camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, meaning he was the prelate tasked with keeping the Vatican running after the death of a pope.
Several diplomats, priests and fellow prelates have reacted to the cardinal’s death, taking to social media to praise him not only for his kindness and humor, but for his long-standing service to the Church.
In a July 6 tweet, British ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy said she was sad to hear about his death and said he had shown the embassy “great support” at an event organized in January.
“He was both an intellectual giant and a man of great warmth and humor, who worked tirelessly to build relations with the Muslim world. We will miss him greatly,” she said.
Eduard Habsburg, Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See, also showed his sympathy by retweeting a “RIP” to Cardinal Tauran, saying he was “a great man of the Church.”
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican Council for Culture, also tweeted a “RIP” accompanied by one of the late cardinal’s quotes: “What is threatening us is not the clash of civilizations, but rather the clash of ignorance and radicalism. To know yourself is to recognize yourself.”
Father Manuel Dorantes, a Chicago priest and a strategic adviser to the Vatican dicastery for communications, tweeted out a prayer for the prelate, asking: “May the Lord embrace lovingly this kind and gentle man who served the Church so faithfully.”