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Pope receives new Vatican ambassadors

Ambassadors from Thailand, Pakistan and other nations present their credentials

  • Alessandro Speciale, Vatican
  • Vatican City
  • December 16, 2011
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Pope Benedict XVI yesterday received newly appointed non-resident ambassadors to the Vatican from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Kyrgyzistan and seven other countries. But, changing a decades old tradition, he didn't give each new ambassador an individual speech.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi explained that the change in protocol was being made for “reasons of simplicity and consistency with current diplomatic practice.” It should not be read in relation with Pope Benedict's health, he added.

Diplomatic protocol dictates that each new ambassador is requested to present a formal “letter of credence” to the head of state, asking for diplomatic accreditation.

Since the time of Pope Paul VI, on the occasion of this ceremony the Vatican Secretariat of State prepared a papal speech for each new ambassador, regarding the situation of the country and its relations with the Vatican. According to the Vatican spokesman this was a “peculiarity of the Holy See in recent years.”

In the case of non-resident ambassadors, these speeches were exchanged but not actually pronounced, and the pope read a speech addressed to all the new diplomats.

Fr Lombardi stressed that new ambassadors will continue to meet the pope in person to present their letters of credence and to get to know each other. He also said the pope will still have the opportunity to address the people of a country “with specific messages for certain occasions or in circumstances of particular importance,” such as national holidays or major anniversaries.

The change in protocol will also affect new residential ambassadors – those whose countries have opened an embassy at the Vatican in Rome and who usually present their “letters of credence” in a one-on-one audience – but Fr Lombardi stressed that the pope will devote more time to meeting with them.

In his speech to all the new ambassadors, Pope Benedict spoke of the effects of globalization, stressing that “we are all responsible for one another” and that is therefore “important to maintain a positive vision of solidarity because it is the driving force of integral human development.”

This year, the pope also started meeting bishops in Rome for their five-year ad limina visit collectively and not on a one-on-one basis.
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