Pope names Filipino priest as new envoy to Rwanda

Pope Francis has appointed a 55-year-old Filipino priest from Manila Archdiocese as his representative in Rwanda, Africa.

The Vatican announced the appointment of Father Arnaldo Catalan on Jan. 31, as did Manila Archdiocese through the Manila Cathedral press office.

His appointment as a nuncio means Father Catalan, who is presently serving as chargé d’affaires at the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in China, will be elevated to an archbishop.

A nuncio or papal nuncio, a title equivalent to the rank of an ambassador, is a diplomat serving as an envoy or diplomatic representative of the pope in another state as reported by UCA news.

Father Catalan has served in the Holy See’s diplomatic service for the past 20 years, holding posts in various apostolic nunciatures (embassies) around the world, including Zambia, India, Kuwait, Turkey, Argentina and Canada.

In 2019, Pope Francis appointed him chargé d’affaires in China.

I thank the Holy Father for this gift and honor and consider the appointment of Archbishop-elect Catalan as historic

With his elevation to an archbishop, Pope Francis has designated to Father Catalan the titular see of Apollonia in Albania.

His diplomatic appointment makes him the fifth Filipino nuncio presently serving the Holy See and the first from Manila Archdiocese.

Manila’s archbishop Cardinal Jose Advincula welcomed the appointment of another Filipino clergyman as an ambassador.

“I thank the Holy Father for this gift and honor and consider the appointment of Archbishop-elect Catalan as historic, with him being the first priest from the Archdiocese of Manila to become a nuncio,” Cardinal Advincula said in a statement on Jan. 31.

“I also greet the new archbishop in the name of the clergy, religious men and women, and the laity of the archdiocese and assure him of their support and prayers as he takes on this new mission.”

Father Catalan, who could not be reached for comment, will succeed Archbishop Andrzej Józwowicz, who was transferred from Rwanda to Iran in June 2021.

Rwanda was the scene of ethnic violence in 1994 that saw at least 1 million people slaughtered by armed militia targeting members of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus.

The genocide lasted for about 100 days and it is estimated that up to 800,000 of the dead were Tutsis.

Many Filipino Catholics are expected to watch the live broadcast or attend Father Catalan’s episcopal ordination, the details for which are soon to be released by the Vatican.

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