Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and the Roman Curia

The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (usually referred to in Rome simply as the “academia”) is housed in the Palazzo Severoli located on the Piazza della Minerva, just behind the Pantheon. Founded in April 1701 by Abbot Pietro Garagni during the reign of Pope Clement XI, the academia is dedicated to training priests selected from all over the Catholic world — nowadays, but originally from the ranks of the “nobles” within the Papal states and soon its closest allies — to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.

Archbishop Celestinio Migliore, currently Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, was Undersecretary for Relations with States December 16, 1995 – October 30, 2002. On that latter date he was appointed Permanent Observer at the UN, New York (where he was assisted for a couple of years by Msgr Leo Cushley, Scottish, a priest of the Diocese of Motherwell). As Under-Secretary, His Excellency served ex-officio as Professor of Ecclesiastical Diplomacy at the Pontifical Lateran University and had responsibility for delivering the course on papal diplomacy for the students of the academia.

He has described the curriculum thus: “The academic curriculum consists of two years of specialized studies: ecclesiastical diplomacy, international law, monographs on international organizations and on techniques of negotiations; the history of ecclesiastical diplomacy, diplomatic styles, courses on great modern cultural and theological strains; and economic and social questions.

“At the same time, students take courses in information technology and languages. Each student, at the end of the curriculum, has to possess a working knowledge of at least two languages in addition to his mother tongue. The major languages studied are: English, French, Spanish, and German, and, increasingly, Arabic and the languages of Eastern Europe and Asia.” (‘Foreign’ students must already be totally fluent in Italian before selection.)

Each year roughly between eight and twelve diocesan priests from around the world are recruited to the academia; sometimes fewer and sometimes more, but never by much. Ten years ago, the Class of 2002 had 14 students. The Class of 1986, which included our very own Msgr Peter Magee PhB STL JCD (a priest of the Diocese of Galloway and now President of the National Tribunal) had 5. Ultimately, the hope would be that the brightest and the best, and NOT the most ambitious, alumni of the academia will in time be appointed as Apostolic Nuncios with the ecclesiastical rank of an archbishop. But obviously not all will, or, indeed, could be.

Moreover, even if an alumnus reaches the giddy heights of an Apostolic Nunciature that is not necessarily as far as he will go in service of the Holy See.

Academia alumni serving in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia


Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Class of: 1959/enrolment number: 1325); Secretary of State Emeritus and Dean of the Sacred College.

First Section
Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu (1980/1533) Substitute for General Affairs (sostituto), (date of appointment IF still serving: May 10, 2011)

Msgr Peter Brian Wells (1996/1688; American, only given if non-Italian); Assessor for General Affairs (assessore) (July 16, 2009);
Archbishop Luciano Suriani (1986/1594) Delegate for Pontifical Representations (Sep 24, 2009) [Mgr Suriani was an academia classmate of Mgr Peter Magee, priest of the Diocese of Galloway and President of the Scottish National Tribunal.]

Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwu (1992/1646; Nigerian); Head of Protocol (Sep 4, 2007)

Second Section
Archbishop Dominique François Joseph Mamberti (1982/1652, French, Moroccan born); Secretary for the Relations with States (Sep 15, 2006)

Msgr. Ettore Balestrero (1996/162); Undersecretary for the Relations with States (Aug 17, 2009) [Mgr Balestrero was an academia classmate of Mgr Leo Cushley, priest of the Diocese of Motherwell and Head of the English Language Section of the Secretariat of State, and hence the Pope's English Language Interpreter.]

Note: If any prelate listed here below has previously served in the Secretariat of State, a note to that effect will be given as such service is a good indicator of promotion to the very highest levels (for example, two former sostituti were elected Pope in the 20th century, Benedict XV and Paul VI).


Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Leonardo Cardinal Sandri (1971/1446)(Nov 18, 1943, Argentinean, ethnic Italian); Prefect (Jun 9, 2007); former sostituto (Sep 16, 2000-Jun 9, 2007)

Achille Cardinal Silvestrini (1952/1270); Prefect Emeritus; former Secretary for the relations with States (May 4, 1979-Mar 1, 1986) [Cardinal Silvestrini’s successor as Secretary for the Relations with States was Cardinal Sodano]

Congregation for Bishops
Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri (1971/1437)(Sep29, 1940); Secretary (Jan 11, 2012)

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Archbishop/Cardinal-elect Fernando Filoni (1979/1528) (Apr 15, 1946); Prefect (May 10, 2011); former sostituto (Jun 9, 2007-May 10, 2011)

Ivan Cardinal Dias (1962/1346) (April 14, 1936); Prefect Emeritus


Apostolic Penitentiary
Archbishop/Cardinal-elect Manuel Monteiro de Castro (1965/1377, Portuguese)(Mar 29, 1938); Major Penitentiary (Jan 5, 2012)

Fortunato Cardinal Baldelli (1964/1360)(Aug 6, 1935); Major Penitentiary Emeritus
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura


Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy (1953/1280); President Emeritus

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Renato Cardinal Raffaele Martino (1960/ 1334) (Nov 23, 1932); President Emeritus

Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
Archbishop/Cardinal-elect Antonio Mari Vegliὸ (1966/1988) (Feb 3, 1938); President (Feb 28, 2009)

Cardinal Giovanni Cheli (1950/1257); President Emeritus

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto (1964/1370); Secretary Emeritus

Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue
Jean-Louis Pierre Cardinal Tauran (1973/1472)(Apr 5, 1943); President (Jun 25, 2007); former Secretary for the Relations with the States (Decemebr 1, 1990-October 6, 2003). Curiously, Cardinal Tauran did not serve as an Apostolic Nuncio before his appointment as head of the Second Section of the Secretariat of State.

Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata (1965/1375); Secretary (Nov 14, 2002) [Mgr Celata was an academia classmate of Mgr Basil Loftus, retired priest of the Diocese of Leeds now serving in the Highlands of Scotland and contributing a weekly column to the Scottish Catholic Observer, to which I also contribute.]

Pontifical Council for Social Communications
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli (1966/1383); President (Jun 27, 2007); former Undersecretary for the Relations with States (1990-Dec 16, 1995)


Apostolic Chamber
Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo (1954/1287); Chamberlain (Camerlengo) Emeritus

Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
Cardinal Sergio Sebastiano (1958/1318); Prefect Emeritus

Prefecture of the Papal Household
Archbishop James Michael Harvey (1976/1500); Prefect (Feb 7, 1998)

Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See
Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti (1949/not available); President Emeritus

Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan (1957/1311); President Emeritus

Synod of Bishops
Archbishop Nikola Eterović (1977/1507); Secretary General (Feb 11, 2004)

Governatorate of Vatican City State
Archbishop/Cardinal-elect Giuseppe Bertello (1967/1390)(Oct 1, 1942); President (Oct 1, 2011; appointed on his 69th birthday)

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo (1968/1403) (Jan 3, 1935); President Emeritus; former Secretary for the Relations with States (Oct 7, 2003-Sep 15, 2006)

Major Basilicas
Archbishop/Cardinal-elect Santos Abril y Castelló (1963/1537)(Sep 21, 1935); Archpriest of the Basilica of St Mary Major (Nov 21, 2011)

Scottish Notes

(1) The Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Michael Harvey, gained his doctorate in canon law under the supervision of Fr Clarence Gallagher SJ, Rector Emeritus of the Pontical Oriental Institute. Fr Clarence is a native of Mossend, Bellshil and was educated at the Holy Family Primary School and Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell (my own alma mater).

(2) Archbishop Luciano Suriani (Secretariat of State) was an academia classmate (Class of 1986) of Msgr Peter Magee, President of the Scottish National Tribunal and my hope as next Archbishop of Glasgow.

(3) Cardinal-elect Manuel Monteiro de Castro (Major Penitentiary) and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue) were academia classmates (Class of 1965) of Msgr Basil Loftus, retired priest of the Diocese of Leeds, now a contributor to the Scottish Catholic Observer (as opposed to Observant).

General Notes

(1) HE Paolo Cardinal Sardi, Vice-Chamberlain Emeritus of the Apostolic Chamber, was appointed an official of the Secretariat of State on December 10, 1996, at the same time being accorded the archiepiscopal dignity. However, I can find no listing for him as an alumnus of the academia. Salvador Miranda notes of his education: “he entered the Major Seminary in Torino; from October 1954, he studied theology and philosophy at the Pontificial Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a licentiate in theology in 1958; later, he studied canon law at the same university and obtained a doctorate in this discipline in 1963; then, he studied jurisprudence at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan.”

No mention of the academia. He then describes his priesthood thus: “Ordained, June 29, 1958. From 1963 he taught moral theology at the Theological Faculty of the diocese of Acqui; and later he taught the same discipline at the Theological Faculty in Turin until 1976, when he was called to the Vatican to work in the Secretariat of State. On July 30, 1978, he was named chaplain of His Holiness. On December 24, 1987, he was named prelate of honour of His Holiness. In 1992, he was appointed vice assessor of the Secretariat of State; and in 1997, he was appointed assessor.”

No mention of a diplomatic career until 1976 and his call to the Vatican.

(2) The papal almoner, Archbishop Félix del Blanco Prieto, is a former diplomat. On May 31, 1991 he was nominated Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to São Tomé and Príncipe and Apostolic Delegate to Angola and was ordained Bishop on July 6 following, being provided to the titular archdiocese of Vannida; in May 1996 he was transferred as Nuncio to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea was added at the end of the following month; in June 2003 he was transferred to Malta and Libya. On July 28, 2007 he was recalled to Rome and given his present assignment. However, he is not listed as an alumnus of the academia.

In 2006, 30 Days (no. 6/7) observed that all the nuncios at that time (there were 102, some covering more than one country) were drawn from the secular clergy except three: the Scalabrinian Silvano Tomasi (UN Geneva), the American Verbite Michael A. Blume (Benin) and the English White Father Michael L. Fitzgerald (Egypt). 30 Days then went on to say that apart from these 3 religious, another 7 nuncios were “also exceptional”. And numbered among them was “the Spaniard Felix del Blanco Prieto (Malta)”. I presume that this means he was not prepared for a diplomatic career at the academia.

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