Vatican City (AsiaNews) – An expert in Chinese affairs and on the Middle East, from today is the new Vatican substitute for the Secretary of State. Benedict XVI in fact, has appointed Msgr. Fernando Filoni, calling him from the Nunciature to the Philippines.
Msgr. Filoni, 61, was born in Manduria (Taranto Southern Italy) and is a graduate in Philosophy and Canon Law. He entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service and has worked in Nunciatures to Sri Lanka, Iran, and Brazil and in the Roman Curia.
His most intense and important period of work however, was a period he spend in Hong Kong in the ‘90’s, on the Holy See’s so-called “Study Mission”, linked to the Manila Nunciature. During this time Msgr. Filoni was John Paul II’s bridge, reaching out to China’s bishops, official and non-official, reconciling the vast majority to the Holy See. He was also the main sponsor of Msgr. Joseph Zen bishop of Hong Kong. A close friend of the former, he witnessed the passing of the former British colony under Chinese rule.
On January 17 2001, he became titular Archbishop of Volturno and was nominated Apostolic nunicio to Jordan and Iraq, receiving his bishops ordination from John Paul II.
Msgr. Filoni defended the freedom of the Church in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein and – in line with the Pope’s position – opposed the US invasion of the country. After the fall of Saddam he did not fail to notice some new aspects of peoples new found freedom – schools, mass media etc… - but he also warned against the lack of security and the slow reprisal of the economy, eulogising the new constitution and supporting solidarity and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
On February 25 2006 he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.
In a declaration published by the Vatican Press Office, he commented on his appointment:
“It is an act of paternal benevolence on the part of the Pontiff, to which I respond without the slightest trepidation, but with the same willingness and profound gratitude I have had in the past. The wonderful words of Our Lord aid me at this time, those found in Luke (17, 10), on the attitude of those called into the Christ’s service: ‘When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do'.”.
Msgr. Leonardo Sandri, upon till now substitute for the secretary of state, was today nominated Prefect of the congregation for Oriental Churches , after the Pope accepted the resignation of Card. Ignace Moussa Daud I on having reached retirement age.