Fernando Filoni

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Fernando Filoni
Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Filoni in 2019
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed8 December 2019
Installed16 January 2020
PredecessorEdwin Frederick O’Brien
Other post(s)
Ordination3 July 1970
by Antonio Rosario Mennonna
Consecration19 March 2001
by Pope John Paul II
Created cardinal18 February 2012
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Fernando Filoni

(1946-04-15) 15 April 1946 (age 77)
DenominationRoman Catholic
ResidenceVatican City
Previous post(s)
Alma materPontifical Lateran University
  • Lumen Gentium Christus
  • ("Christ, Light of the nations")
Coat of armsFernando Filoni's coat of arms
Styles of
Fernando Filoni
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Fernando Filoni (born 15 April 1946) is an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who serves as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 2011 to 2019. He is an expert in Chinese affairs and on the Middle East.

Education and early diplomatic work[edit]

Filoni was born in Manduria near Taranto, Italy. He entered the seminary and earned doctorates in Philosophy and in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University. He was ordained a priest on 3 July 1970. He served in the Nunciatures of Sri Lanka from 1981 until 1983, Iran from 1983 to 1985, Brazil from 1989 to 1992 and the Philippines from 1992 until 2000. Although formally assigned to the Apostolic Nunciature to the Philippines, he was based in Hong Kong. During this time Archbishop Filoni was Pope John Paul II's bridge to China's bishops, official and non-official Churches and bishops, in the hope of reconciling them to the Holy See.[1]

Apostolic Nuncio[edit]

Pope John Paul II appointed Filoni as apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan on 17 January 2001, naming him titular Archbishop of Volturnum.[2] He received episcopal consecration from Pope John Paul II on 19 March 2001. He chose Lumen Gentium Christus as his episcopal motto.[3]

Archbishop Filoni defended the freedom of the Catholic Church in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein and – in line with the Pope's position – opposed the US invasion of the country in 2003.[4] He remained in Baghdad as American bombs fell,[5] which he called "nothing exceptional".[6] When Mario Vargas Llosa visited him in Baghdad in 2003, he described Filoni as "small, astute, tough as nails, talkative and an expert on emergencies", who described sadly how, just as predicted, it was "incredibly difficult to administer the peace".[7] After the fall of Saddam he recognized the new-found freedom enjoyed by the people, but he warned against the lack of security and the slow development of the economy. He expressed mixed feelings towards the new constitution, which he described as both a "positive step towards normalization in the country" and "contradictory in some areas",[8] and supported the peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.

He came close to being killed in Baghdad on 1 February 2006, when a car bomb exploded next to the nunciature.[9] He served in Iraq and Jordan until 25 February 2006 when he was named Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.[10]

Roman Curia[edit]

Substitute of the Secretariat of State[edit]

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Filoni Substitute for General Affairs on 9 June 2007, effective 1 July.[4] During his four years as Substitute, it was Filoni's job to organise the activities of the Curia and the care of official translations of papal documents and correspondence; encryption dispatches messengers to be sent to the Registry of the papal letters, the resolution of legal issues, personnel management in the Curia and nunciatures, protocol and etiquette for visiting heads of state, information and media management, and Vatican archive management. He was also responsible for organizing the activities of nuncios around the world in their activities concerning the local churches.

Observers noted that during his time as substitute, Filoni never established a strong rapport with his immediate superior, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.[11]

In 2008, Archbishop Filoni was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[12]

McCarrick Scandal[edit]

In his August 2018 "Testimony", Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò reported that on 25 May 2008 he had sent Filoni a summary of information provided by an ex-priest named Gregory Littleton who attested to sexual abuse of priests and seminarians by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick along with the information included in Richard Sipe's recently published "Statement for Pope Benedict XVI" on McCarrick's sexual misconduct. He said that Filoni "knew in every detail the situation regarding Cardinal McCarrick".[13] Filoni received checks totalling $3,500 from McCarrick between 2008 and 2013.[14]

Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples[edit]

On 10 May 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Filoni Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Vatican department in charge of administering mission territories, in succession to Ivan Cardinal Dias, who had reached retirement age and had health problems.[15] La Nazione remarked that to be reassigned after only four years as Substitute was unusual and speculated that Filoni had been moved because of a "stormy" relationship with Bertone.[16]

The Holy See announced on 6 January 2012 that he would be created a cardinal on 18 February. He was created Cardinal-Deacon of Nostra Signora di Coromoto. On 24 April 2012 Filoni was made a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and the Congregation for Catholic Education.[17] On 24 November 2012 he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.[18] Filoni took part in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, and was considered to be a papabile, or possible candidate to be elected pope.[9]

Based on his work with the people of Iraq, Filoni wrote The Church in Iraq.[19]

Pope Francis raised him to the rank of Cardinal Bishop effective 28 June 2018.[20]

Pope Francis named Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to succeed Filoni as Prefect of the Congregation on 8 December 2019.[21]

Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre[edit]

Pope Francis named him Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on 8 December 2019.[22]


  1. ^ "Filoni Card. Fernando". Holy See Press Office. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 17.01.2001" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 17 January 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  3. ^ "A rosary for the whole world". 30 Days (Interview). 1 May 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Msgr. Fernando Filoni is the new substitute for the Secretary of State". Asia News. 9 June 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  5. ^ "After the bombs there was chaos, Filoni on the Christians of Iraq's Babel". La Stampa. AP/La Presse. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  6. ^ "Iraq for the Iraqis". 30 Days (Interview). 1 April 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  7. ^ Vargas Llosa, Mario (2011). Touchstones: Essays on Literature, Art, and Politics. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9781429967471. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  8. ^ "L'Osservatore Welcomes Approval of Iraqi Constitution". Zenit. 26 October 2005. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b Allen Jr., John L. (6 March 2013). "Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 25 February 2006" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 25 February 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  11. ^ Hernández Velasco, Irene (11 May 2011). "Benedicto XVI asciende al nuncio de Cuba". El Mundo.
  12. ^ "Presidenza della Repubblica". Quirinale.it. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014.
  13. ^ Viganò, Carlo Maria. "Testimony" (PDF).
  14. ^ "Ousted cardinal McCarrick gave more than $600,000 to fellow clerics, including two popes, records show". The Washington Post. 26 December 2019.
  15. ^ Pentin, Edward (10 May 2011). "Benedict XVI Makes Two Key Vatican Appointments". National Catholic Register. Archived from the original on 25 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Rimpasto in Curia". La Nazione. 7 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Rinunce e Nominee, 21.04.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 24.11.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  19. ^ Filoni, Fernando The Church in Iraq (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press), 2017; a translation of La Chiesa in Iraq (Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana), 2015.
  20. ^ "Rescriptum ex Audientia Ss.mi" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 26 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  21. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 08.12.2019" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 08.12.2019" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 8 December 2019.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Head of Holy See Study Mission to Hong Kong
1992 – 17 January 2001
Succeeded by
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq
17 January 2001 – 25 February 2006
Succeeded by
Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan
17 January 2001 – 25 February 2006
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
25 February 2006 – 9 June 2007
Succeeded by
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by — TITULAR —
Titular Archbishop of Volturno
17 January 2001 – 18 February 2012
Succeeded by
Preceded by Substitute for General Affairs
1 July 2007 – 10 May 2011
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
10 May 2011 – 8 December 2019
Succeeded by
President of the Interdicasterial Commission for Consecrated Religious
10 May 2011 – 8 December 2019
Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urban University
10 May 2011 – 8 December 2019
Preceded by Cardinal Deacon of Nostra Signora di Coromoto in San Giovanni di Dio
18 February 2012 – 28 June 2018
Himself as Cardinal Bishop
Himself as Cardinal Deacon Cardinal Bishop of Nostra Signora di Coromoto in San Giovanni di Dio
28 June 2018 –
Preceded by Grand Master of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
8 December 2019 –