Speculation is mounting about who may be the next U.S. ambassador for Pope Francis. The pope's current ambassador, or nuncio, to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, is still in the role, however church sources indicate the pontiff has chosen French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre, now the Vatican's representative to Mexico, to be his next envoy to the states.
"Pope fires Vatican ambassador to U.S. over Kim Davis," shouted the story this week in Daily Kos. However, some indicated Viganò was expected this January, when he turned 75 years old, to submit a formal request for permission to resign as required by canon law. He reached the statutory retirement age on Jan. 16.
Viganò gained infamy last September when it became known he had set up a what was perceived as a "secret" meeting between Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who briefly went to jail for refusing to sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples. Their encounter took place at the Vatican Embassy in Washington when the pontiff was visiting the nation's capital, reports Religion News Service. When news leaked about the meeting a few days after Francis returned to Rome, it caused an uproar because some people believed the pope was quietly giving support to a woman in the middle of the same type of cultural wars against which he preached during the visit.
The Sept. 25, 2015, meeting between Francis and Davis cast a shadow over what was otherwise perceived to be an enormously successful first-ever trip to the United States for Francis.
On Oct. 2, Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that the office of Viganò had extended the invitation to Kim Davis and that the pope was probably not briefed about her case. Chief Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi depicted the meeting as one among many brief introductions rather than an audience.
Viganò became the apostolic nuncio to the United States on Oct. 19, 2011. He had served as secretary-general of the Governorate of Vatican City State, from July 16, 2009 to Sept. 3, 2011. He grew up in Italy, and was ordained a priest on March 24, 1968.
Pierre is now the Vatican's representative to Mexico.
The news about Pierre potential appointment was first broken by Vatican watcher, Sandro Magister, in his blog "Settimo Cielo" on March 10, who wrote that "his promotion is imminent" to that key post.
Pierre, 70, is widely recognized as one of the Holy See's most accomplished diplomats, reports American "The national Catholic review" magazine. A polyglot, who speaks English fluently, he has served as nuncio in Mexico since March 22, 2007, and excelled as adviser and host to Pope Francis during his recent visit there. Before going to Mexico he served with distinction as nuncio to Uganda (1999 to 2007) and Haiti (1995 to 1999). He entered the Holy See's diplomatic corps in 1977, and has also served in its missions to New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil and to the U.N. Office in Geneva.