Russia’s current nuncio has been chosen to replace the Holy See’s outgoing ambassador as papal nuncio to Britain in the New Year.
Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who serves as papal ambassador to the Russian Federation and is Italian, will take up his new post early next year. He will replace the outgoing nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, and will oversee key appointments to episcopal posts in England and Wales.
In the next five years he is likely to propose candidates for the Archdiocese of Cardiff, which is currently empty, as well as the dioceses of Brentwood, Portsmouth, Wrexham, Hallam and Plymouth, where the bishops are coming up for retirement.
The new appointee was sent to Moscow in 2003 after having served as nuncio in Bulgaria and diplomatic attaché in Turkey and Uganda. According to reports, Archbishop Mennini has a reputation for being a “discreet diplomat” who was widely credited with improving the Vatican’s relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Relations between the two communions cooled considerably in 2001 after John Paul II established Catholic dioceses in Russia, a move which was seen as an act of aggression by Russian Orthodox leaders.
But a growing rapprochement led to President Dmitry Medvedev meeting the Holy Father in Rome in 2009 and promising to establish full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Last summer, the states assumed full diplomatic relations and Archbishop Mennini became the first Apostolic Nuncio to have his credentials recognised by Russia.
His predecessor as nuncio to Britain, Archbishop Sainz Muñoz, resigned because of ill health.