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Vatican City, Apr 24, 2015 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis met April 17 with Laurent Stefanini, the openly gay foreign service officer named by France to be ambassador to the Vatican.

News of the private audience, which was kept strictly confidential, was reported April 22 by the French magazine Le Canard Enchainé, although the magazine said that the meeting took place April 18. A source from the Vatican Secretariat of State told CNA that the meeting actually took place in the late evening of April 17, and confirmed that it lasted about 15 minutes.

The case of the French ambassador-elect to the Holy See has sparked controversy and media frenzy in parts of Europe.

At the beginning of April, French media spread the news that the François Hollande administration had chosen Laurent Stefanini to be the new French ambassador to the Holy See January 5, but that the Vatican has not responded yet to the request for accreditation of the new ambassador.

According to diplomatic right, a State can reject the request for accreditation of an ambassador, without giving any explanation about the reasons why. A State can even decide not to give a response at all to the request for accreditation of the new ambassador, and the lack of response is understood as a soft rejection of the appointment.

In order to receive Holy See diplomatic approval, ambassadors appointed to the Holy See must meet certain prerequisites and must behave in accordance with Church teaching. For example, an ambassador to the Holy See cannot be a divorced and civilly remarried person or someone living an actively gay lifestyle.  

Laurent Stefanini describes himself as both gay and a self-proclaimed devout Catholic, who regularly attends Mass.

A source who serves in the Holy See diplomacy explained to CNA Apr. 21 that it should be well understood “why the Vatican delayed to give the approval to the appointment, but we can certainly assess that it was not for discrimination about his sexual orientation.”

As a matter of fact, the dossier of Stefanini lies in the Vatican Secretariat of State, which is the only Vatican body that may know in depth the reasons for the delay. The Secretariat of State is not issuing comments, as diplomatic procedures require discretion in relations among States.

According to the Italian daily news portal “Vatican Insider,” Archbishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio to France, invited Stefanini for a meeting in the nunciature February 5. During the meeting, Archbishop Ventura would have asked Stefanini to step down, but he had refused to do so.

As the Vatican delayed its response, news of the missed approval broke at the beginning of April, and secular media started pressuring the Holy See on the issue.

Withholding approval would not be unprecedented. In 2007, the Holy See did not give diplomatic approval to the appointment of Jean Loup Khun-Delforge as French ambassador.  Khun-Delforge, who was openly gay, was cohabiting with his partner and in support of civil unions.

Stephane Le Foll, a spokesperson for the French Presidency, confirmed that “there was a meeting between the Pope and Stefanini,” and that “nothing has changed: France has proposed a candidate, and at the moment we are waiting for the Vatican response.”

Waiting for the final decision, a Vatican source said to the French newspaper 'La Croix' that “the Vatican message to France is: follow the procedures.” Such procedures imply silence while the review process of a proposed ambassador is ongoing.

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2015 / 05:14 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Friday that Fr. Edward C. Malesic of Harrisburg, Penn. has been nominated to lead the Greensburg diocese, a role he wishes to carry out by imitating Pope Francis’ compassion.

In a prepared April 24 statement Fr. Malesic said he was both honored and humbled by Pope Francis’ decision to appoint him as the fifth bishop of Greensburg, Penn., according to the Harrisburg diocese’s website.

The bishop-elect described the style that he wishes to lead with, saying that “In short, as Pope Francis said of himself, I too am a fellow sinner. But because I am a fellow believer I have also received the mercy of God.”

“I want to proclaim that. With God there is mercy and fullness of redemption,” he said, and thanked the people of the Harrisburg diocese for forming him in what it means to be a Christian.

Fr. Malesic, 54, will succeed Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt as the fifth bishop of Greensburg, after the latter submitted his resignation to Pope Francis last year having reached the age limit of 75.

Born in Harrisburg Aug. 14, 1960, the priest graduated from Central Dauphin East High School in 1978 and studied biology at Lebanon Valley College for three years prior to entering the seminary.

He then went on to study at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1983, and a Master of Divinity in 1987.

Bishop-elect Malesic was ordained a priest for Harrisburg May 30, 1987, by then-bishop William H. Keeler.

After his ordination he served in various pastoral assignments in the diocese, the first being as assistant pastor of St. Theresa Parish, New Cumberland, Penn. until 1989. He was then assigned to St. Rose of Lima Parish, where he served in the same capacity.

While at St. Rose of Lima, Fr. Malesic also served as campus minister of York College of Pennsylvania. In 1992 he was appointed to full time campus ministry, and went on to serve for four years at Millersville University and later Franklin and Marshall College in nearby Lancaster.

In 1996 the bishop-elect was sent to study canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he received his licentiate in in the subject.

He has served the diocesan tribunal in various capacities, such as auditor, Adjutant Judicial Vicar and secretary for Canonical Services. In 2006 he was appointed as Judicial Vicar, which is a position he holds to this day.

The priest was appointed as administrator of Holy Infant Parish in York Haven, Penn. in 2004, and was later named pastor of the parish.

Fr. Malesic has overseen the parish for the past 11 years, and is currently in charge of the relocation and construction of a new church and parish center, scheduled to conclude in 2016.

In an April 24 statement on the priest’s nomination as bishop for Greensburg, the current head of the Harrisburg diocese, Bishop Ronald Gainer, said that Fr. Malesic served has fulfilled his duties “with exceptional dedication and fruitfulness.”

He praised the bishop-elect’s “quick wit and exemplary commitment to priestly ministry,” saying that it will be a challenge to find someone to take his place.

Bishop-elect Malesic will be introduced at a news conference in the Bishop Connare Center in Greensburg at 10 a.m. His episcopal ordination will take place July 13, 2015, at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg.

The Diocese of Greensburg was established March 10, 1951, and is composed of four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. The diocese’s Catholic population is currently at 148,937 faithful in 78 parishes.

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2015 / 05:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Thursday that Fr. Brendan Cahill, Vicar for Clergy in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been named bishop for the diocese of Victoria, Texas.

In an April 23 statement Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said that Fr. Cahill has been “a faithful priest” in his diocese, and will bring “a wealth of gifts and experiences with him in this new ministry.”

“His appointment is a sign of the Holy Father's care for the needs of the people of Southeast Texas, whose deep Catholic roots continue to be a vital presence in the region,” the cardinal said.

The priest’s “warm and pastoral heart” will be greatly missed, he said, assuring the bishop-elect of his personal prayers and fraternal support in his new mission.

Cardinal DiNardo also called on the faithful of the diocese to pray that Fr. Cahill might be “a wise and faithful shepherd of God's holy people.”

Fr. Cahill, 51, will succeed Bishop David Eugene Fellhauer as the third shepherd of the Victoria diocese upon the bishops’ retirement, having reached the age limit of 75.

Born in Coral Gables, Florida in 1963, Fr. Cahill was ordained a priest for the diocese of Galveston-Houston May 19, 1990.

The bishop-elect holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology as well as a “Master of Divinity,” which he obtained in 1985 and 1990 from Houston’s Saint Mary’s Seminary and University of St. Thomas.

He later went on to study at the Xavier University in New Orleans, where in 1993 he received a master’s degree in theology with a specialization on the experience and theology of African-American Catholics.

In 1996 he obtained a licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He received a doctorate in the subject from the same university in 1999.

Fr. Cahill’s degrees from the Gregorian University specialize in the history and theologians that were influential at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, as well as the Catholic doctrine on the interpretation of Scripture as developed in the council.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Cahill served as assistant priest for St. Francis Cabrini Parish in Houston for two years, after which he held the same position at Christ the Good Shepherd in the Spring area of the city until 1994.

From 1994 until 1998 the bishop-elect pursued his doctoral studies in Rome, after which he returned to Houston and served as first as the formation director, then as rector of his former seminary.

In 2010 the priest was nominated as the archdiocesan director of the Secretariat for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services for Galveston-Houston, which is a position he held until 2014. He also served as head of the diocese’s Priest Personnel Board and was a member of the Council of Priests.

The bishop-elect is also a spiritual director for the Houston Senatus of the Legion of Mary and a chaplain of the Houston Serra Club and Knights of Columbus in Galveston-Houston chapter.

He is also an associate chaplain of the Knights of Malta, of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

The priest has served as Galveston-Houston’s Vicar for Clergy since 2014. In addition to English, Fr. Cahill also speaks Spanish and Italian.

Bishop Fellhauer will make a formal announcement on Fr. Cahill’s appointment alongside the bishop-elect during a news conference scheduled to take place at 10a.m. local time in Victoria, Texas, according to the Galveston-Houston diocese’s website.

Fr. Cahill’s episcopal ordination is scheduled to take place June 29, 2015, in Victoria.

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