The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the request of Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo who, on reaching retirement age, has resigned from the post of Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. The Pope has nominated as his successor Archbishop Francesco Monterisi who has served up until now as the secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
The appointment was made public at 12.30 on July 3rd in the Holy See’s press office by papal spokesman Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi at the end of a press conference, given by Cardinal di Montezemolo and by the director of the Vatican museums scientific laboratory, about the tests carried out on St Paul’s sarcophagus. Pope Benedict’s announcement of the results of those tests, made during Vespers for the closing of the Pauline Year, has provoked an intense amount of interest from people in countries around the world.
At the press conference Fr Lombardi said: ‘I believe that we have truly experienced, together with your Eminence, the wide participation of so many people here in these last few years, because you have succeeded in promoting so many initiatives in the Basilica and in sparking the interest, not just of us here in the Vatican, but of so many Christians in St Paul’s. These last four years of your service here will most likely prove to have been a highly significant historical period for the Basilica. Thus on behalf of all those present I would like to express our esteem and our gratitude for the way in which you have carried out this task and for allowing us to participate on so many occasions in these various archaeological, organisational and spiritual initiatives. We thank you from the depth of our hearts’.
In his reply, Cardinal di Montezemolo said, ‘It is I who thank you, but it is not up to me to judge all that has been done. I thank sincerely the Holy Father who, four years ago – when I was already over the age limit which is normally observed for those taking up positions within the Holy See – entrusted to me a three year posting which he then extended to run until the end of the Pauline year. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I thank the Pope and all those who have worked with me at St Paul’s Basilica. I am also aware that, as an architect, I have been able to do accomplish many things that others might not have been able or willing to undertake’. He mentioned in particular the new statute for the Basilica which was drawn up with him as the first Archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls and the reorganisation of facilities which have been either carried out or begun with a building project drawn up by the cardinal to be followed through over the coming years. He concluded by saying: ‘I believe that these have been four very active, very intense years and I hope also very advantageous for the basilica and abbey complex so that it may once again become an important centre for liturgy, for study and for all kinds of cultural activities connected to St Paul with a very significant ecumenical dimension’. The cardinal’s words were greeted with spontaneous applause.
Archbishop Francesco Monterisi was born in Barletta on May 28th 1934 and he was ordained priest on March 16th 1957. In 1964 he entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service after completing a degree in theology and cannon law in Rome. He worked for the nuncios in Madagascar and Egypt before coming to serve in the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church (the current second section of the Secretary of State’s office) in 1970, with a particular interest in Middle Eastern affairs.
After being nominated bishop of Alba Marittima on December 24th 1982, he was consecrated on January 6th of the following year and later promoted to archbishop, serving as the Pope’s representative in South Korea. He remained there until 1987, when he was called back to Rome as a nuncio at large. In June 1990 he became the delegate for the papal representatives to the Secretary of State before being named by Pope John Paul II as the nuncio to the newly formed state of Bosnia-Herzegovina in June 1993. In March 1998 he was appointed secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and also became secretary of the College of Cardinals.