Pope names first nuncio for Malaysia
H.E. Archbishop Joseph S. Marino
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the American Archbishop Joseph Marino as the first resident Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, after deciding to open a new nunciature (embassy) in Kuala Lumpur, in what is seen as a highly significant development in relations between the Holy See and this Southeast Asian Islamic state.
At the same time, the pope has also appointed him as Apostolic Nuncio to Timor Leste and Apostolic Delegate to Brunei Darussalam, the Vatican stated when it broke the news of the appointment on Wednesday. The Vatican statement does not mention the opening of a new nunciature but sources have confirmed this will happen.
Timor Leste, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, is the most Catholic country in Asia (927,000 of its 1.143,000 population are Catholic). It has full diplomatic relations with the Holy See and a resident ambassador in Rome.
Brunei, which gained it independence from Britain in 1984, is an Islamic state with a population of 408,000, of whom 18,948 are Catholic, mostly migrant skilled workers, served by an Apostolic Vicariate since 2004. It does not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which has an Apostolic delegate to the Church there.
Archbishop Marino, 50, comes to his new postings with considerable diplomatic experience. At the time of his appointment, he was serving as Nuncio to Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, January 1953, he gained degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, and in theology and biblical theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, while residing at the North American College (1975-80).
After doing pastoral work in Birmingham (1980-84), he entered the Holy See’s academy for diplomats in Rome in 1984 and gained a doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University.
He joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1988 and subsequently served in the Philippines (1988-91), Uruguay (1991-94), Nigeria (1994-97), and the UK (2004-2008).
He worked for eight years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State (1997-2004), as Desk Officer in its Second Section (which deals with Relations with States) and followed Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Moldova.
During the Kosovo war, he accompanied the Secretary for Relations with States (the Vatican’s “Foreign Minister”), Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, to a meeting with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in April 1999, in a peace effort on behalf of then Pope John Paul II.
Then in March 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, he accompanied Cardinal Pio Laghi to Washington DC to meet President George W Bush, on another peace mission on behalf of Pope John Paul II, in a last-ditch effort to avoid the subsequent invasion.
Pope Benedict appointed him as Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh in 2008 and Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, ordained him bishop in Birmingham.
With this broad, transcontinental diplomatic experience, Archbishop Marino moves to Kuala Lumpur to serve as the Pope’s representative there and open the new nunciature. He will serve Timor Leste and Brunei from there.
This important development in bilateral relations between the Holy See and Malaysia comes after both sides agreed to establish diplomatic relations when Prime Minister Najib Bin Abdul Razak met Pope Benedict in July 2011.
Najib said after that encounter that Malaysia agreed to this as it was keen to share its experience and promote world peace and harmony with like-minded states, such as the Vatican.