Giovanni Cheli

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His Eminence
Giovanni Cheli
President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants
See SS Cosma e Damiano
Appointed 18 September 1986 (Pro-Prefect)
Term ended 15 June 1998
Predecessor Emanuele Clarizio
Successor Stephen Fumio Hamao
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of SS Cosma e Damiano
Ordination 21 June 1942
by Umberto Rossi
Consecration 16 September 1978
by Jean-Marie Villot
Created Cardinal 21 February 1998
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1918-10-04)4 October 1918
Turin, Italy
Died 8 February 2013(2013-02-08) (aged 94)
Nationality Italian
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post
  • Titular Archbishop of Santa Giusta (1978–1998)
  • Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations (1978–1986)
  • Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano (1998–2008)
Motto unitas in charitate
Coat of arms Giovanni Cheli's coat of arms
Styles of
Giovanni Cheli
Coat of arms of Giovanni Cheli.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Santa Giusta (titular see)

Giovanni Cheli (4 October 1918 – 8 February 2013) was a cardinal of the Catholic Church[1] and was, along with Achille Silvestrini and Pio Laghi, one of the most prominent Vatican diplomats under Pope John Paul II.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Cheli was born in Turin, Italy. He was educated at the seminary of Asti and soon developed his skills in canon law. At the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome he obtained his doctorate in that subject in 1942 and was ordained on 21 April of that year. Cheli returned to the parish of Asti and became diocesan vice-counselor of the Young Men of Catholic Action, and after pastoral work in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1952. At first, Cheli had the minor role of attaché of the nunciature in Guatemala, but rose to more important roles in Spain and Italy. During this period Cheli continued to do pastoral work in Madrid, and later he worked for the Pontifical Council for Public Affairs from 1967 to 1973.

Church diplomat[edit]

Cheli's place as a major Vatican diplomat, however, was secured only when he became a permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in 1973 and again in 1976. By this time Cheli was known for his knowledge of the problems the Vatican encountered relating to the communist nations of Eastern Europe, and it was natural that he would soon become a bishop – which he did in 1978, unusually being consecrated during the short reign of Pope John Paul I. His combination of knowledge of the Curia and pastoral-mindedness fitted Cheli perfectly for the role of President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which he held continuously for two decades following the start of John Paul II's reign as Pope.


John Paul II created Cheli Cardinal-Deacon of Ss. Cosma e Damiano in the consistory of 21 February 1998. This was seen as a reward for his service as a Vatican diplomat, but his elevation was almost an anticlimax because within a year he had passed the age limit for voting in a conclave.

He had been decorated among others with the Order of Isabel the Catholic, and named commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; and of the Verdienstkreuz of the Federal Republic of Germany.


Invasion of Iraq[edit]

In other respects, too, Cheli had become strangely outspoken for a cardinal appointed by John Paul II. He had been the most vehement critic in the Church of the US invasion of Iraq since 2001.

Age limit for cardinals[edit]

After turning eighty, Cardinals Cheli and Silvestrini came to be seen as the bluntest critics of the rule on over-age cardinals, with Cheli on Silvestrini's 80th birthday (five years after himself turning eighty) saying to The Observer in December 2003, "It is a great deprivation for cardinals. Perhaps different limits can be used in future. Perhaps those whose minds have gone should not vote. We all know who they are. And some of them are in their seventies."

Curial appointments[edit]

He had also voiced his criticism of some of Pope Benedict XVI's appointments within the Roman Curia:[2][not in citation given] Cheli believed Benedict was failing to take diplomatic experience adequately into account when choosing prelates for the Secretariat of State. On 1 March 2008, he was elevated to Cardinal-Priest. His titular deaconry was elevated pro hac vice to title after 10 years as a cardinal deacon.


Cardinal Cheli died on 8 February 2013 of natural causes, at the age of 94. His funeral was held on 9 February at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City with Cardinal Angelo Sodano giving the Mass.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Cardinal Giovanni Cheli dies, 94 years old – GazzettaDelSud". Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  2. ^ "A Change of Tune in the Vatican – And Not Only in the Secretariat of State". Retrieved 2013-02-08. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Alberto Giovannetti
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
25 July 1973 – 18 September 1986
Succeeded by
Renato Raffaele Martino