Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, the outgoing nuncio to Great Britain, had his final audience with Pope Benedict XVI today accompanied by members of his family.
The archbishop, who retired in December after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, is returning to his native Spain where he will continue his chemotherapy.
The Pope also met Francis Campbell, Britain’s outgoing ambassador to the Holy See. His successor has yet to be announced.
Archbishop Sainz Muñoz said farewell to the bishops’ conference of England and Wales at their plenary meeting in November.
He told them: “My illness is very serious and so this is my last meeting with you… The chemotherapy continues and does not allow me to continue my mission here.”
At a thanksgiving Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster praised his “kindness and humanity”.
Archbishop Nichols said: “We have seen for ourselves the pastoral heart of Pope Benedict and we have seen how well it is reflected and expressed in the ministry of our nuncio. It is a heart of kindness, of sensibility, of humanity, of well-chosen words and of joy. Pope Benedict won our hearts Your Excellency, you have won our hearts too.”
His successor, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, former nuncio to the Russian Federation, will take up the post in London next month.