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Nuncio is an ecclesiastical diplomatic title, derived from the ancient Latin word, Nuntius, meaning "envoy." This article addresses this title as well as derived similar titles, all within the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.

Terminology and history

A Papal Nuncio (officially known as an Apostolic Nuncio) is a permanent diplomatic representative (head of diplomatic mission) of the Holy See to a state or international organization (e.g., the Arab League), having the rank of an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, usually with the ecclesiastical rank of titular archbishop. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a papal nuncio is an ambassador like those from any other country. However, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations allows the receiving state to grant seniority of precedence to the papal nuncio over others of ambassadorial rank accredited to the same country, and may grant the deanship of that country's diplomatic corps to the nuncio regardless of seniority.

In addition, the Nuncio serves as the liaison between the Holy See and the Roman Catholic diocesan episcopate in the nation or region to which he is assigned. The national or regional episcopate is usually supervised by a national conference of bishops, whose presiding officer is often the highest ranking bishop or archbishop of that nation, or is elected from the diocesean ordinaries of the nation or region.

Formerly, the title Internuncio denoted a papal diplomatic representative of the second class, corresponding to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary as a title for diplomatic representatives of states (cf. Article 14, par. 2 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations). Before 1829, internuncio was the title applied instead to the interim head of a mission when one Nuncio had left office and his replacement had not yet assumed it.

A legate a latere is a temporary papal representative or a representative for a special purpose.

Historically, the most important type of apocrisiary (a title also applying to representatives exchanged by a high prelate with a Patriarch) was the equivalent of a nuncio, sent by the Pope to the Byzantine Empire; during the fifth and sixth centuries, when much of Italymarker remained under Byzantine control, several Popes were former apocrisiaries.

Pro-Nuncio was a term used from 1965 to 1991 for a papal diplomatic representative of full ambassadorial rank accredited to a country that did not accord him precedence over other ambassadors and de jure deanship of the Diplomatic Corps. In those countries, the papal representative's precedence within the corps is exactly on a par with that of the other members of ambassadorial rank, so that he becomes dean only on becoming the senior member of the corps.

For nations with whom the Holy See has no diplomatic ties, an Apostolic Delegate is sent to serve as a liaison with the Roman Catholic Church in that nation, though not accredited to the government of the state. Apostolic delegates have the same ecclesiastical rank as nuncios, but have no formal diplomatic status, though in some countries they have some diplomatic privileges. Indeed an apostolic delegate served as the Holy See's de facto diplomatic representative to the United Statesmarker and the United Kingdommarker, until both major Anglo-Saxon states with a predominantly Protestant tradition established full-fledged relations with the Holy See in the late twentieth century, allowing for the appointment of a Papal Nuncio (see the list of British Ambassadors to the Holy See). Archbishop Pio Laghi, for example, was first apostolic delegate, then pro-nuncio, to the United States during the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush presidencies.

Apostolic delegates are also sent to regions such as the West Indiesmarker and the islands of the Pacificmarker. These delegates are also appointed nuncio to at least some of the many states covered by their delegation, but the area entrusted to them also contains one or more territories that either are not independent states or are states that do not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

  1. Heads of mission shall take precedence in their respective classes in the order of the date and time of taking up their functions in accordance with Article 13.
  2. Alterations in the credentials of a head of mission not involving any change of class shall not affect his precedence.
  3. This article is without prejudice to any practice accepted by the receiving State regarding the precedence of the representative of the Holy See.

In accordance with this article, many states (even not predominantly Catholic ones such as Germany and Switzerland and including the great majority in central and western Europe and in the Americas) give precedence to the Nuncio over other diplomatic representatives, according him the position of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps reserved in other countries for the longest-serving resident ambassador.

List of diplomatic posts of the Holy See

The Pope accredits diplomats with the following states and other subjects of international law (list as per Spring 2006):


In Africa

Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Congo (Republic of), Congo (Democratic Republic of), Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho , Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sénégal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

In the Americas

Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canadamarker, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela

In Asia

Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria,Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen

In Europe

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Georgia, Germanymarker, Great Britainmarker, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine

In Oceania

Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, East Timor, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu

Special cases

  • There are seventeen countries with whom the Holy See still does not have relations.

*Nine of these are Muslim:
:Afghanistanmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Bruneimarker, Comorosmarker, Malaysiamarker, the Maldivesmarker, Mauritaniamarker, Omanmarker, and Somaliamarker.

*Another four are run by communist regimes. These are:
:China marker, North Koreamarker, Laosmarker, and Vietnammarker.

*The remaining four are:
:Bhutanmarker, Botswanamarker, Burmamarker, and Tuvalumarker.


  • Africa:
Botswana; Comoros; Mauritania; Somalia
  • Asia:
Jerusalem and Palestine; the Arabian Peninsula; Brunei; Laos; Malaysia; Myanmar/Burma; Viêt Nam (currently vacant)
  • the Americas:
the Antilles (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, French Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Saint Vincent and Grenadines)
  • the Pacific Ocean

See also

Sources and external links


  1. Focus - Dettaglio articolo | Chiesa

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