Sunday, January 22, 2006

Successor of Sambi

Moving quickly to fill its top post a rapidly-evolving international hotspot, the Holy See yesterday named Archbishop Antonio Franco, nuncio in the Philippines since 1999, as its representative to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Franco, 68, succeeds Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who was named last month as apostolic nuncio in the United States. Sambi arrives in Washington next week.

Of course, given the tenuous state of Israeli politics with the recent health woes of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the tumult surrounding Palestinian elections on Wednesday, sending one of the top-shelf diplomats, as they've done with Franco, was an expectedly savvy move. (I'm banking on hearing from my AIPAC sources first thing tomorrow asking about all this....)

While Franco had to deal with a series of testy situations in Manila involving episcopal sex scandals, his greatest diplomatic triumph came in the Ukraine where, according to an Italian wire, he "obtained brilliant results in the reorganisation of the Catholic Church, both in the Greek rite and in the Latin rite." The archbishop was a lifer in the Secretariat of State before his episcopal ordination and posting to Kiev in 1992.