Leonardo Sandri

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Leonardo Sandri
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
BISHOP card leonardo sandri 2014 (cropped).jpg
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 11 October 2014
Appointed9 June 2007
PredecessorIgnatius Daoud
Other post(s)
Ordination2 December 1967
by Juan Carlos Aramburu
Consecration11 October 1997
by Angelo Sodano
Created cardinal24 November 2007
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Born (1943-11-18) 18 November 1943 (age 77)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)
MottoIlle fidelis
(He [remains] faithful; 2 Timothy 2:13)
Coat of armsLeonardo Sandri's coat of arms

Leonardo Sandri (born 18 November 1943) is an Argentine Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He has been the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches since June 2007 and a cardinal since November of that year. He served in the diplomatic service of the Holy See from 1974 to 1991, in several overseas assignments including as permanent observer of the Holy See before the Organization of American States from 1989 to 1991, and in Rome as Substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State from 1999 to 2007. On 24 January 2020, Pope Francis approved his election as Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals.


Early life and career[edit]

Sandri was born in Buenos Aires to Antonio Enrico Sandri and Nella Righi, who had emigrated to Argentina from Ala, a village in Trentino in Italy.[1] He studied humanities, philosophy and theology at the Metropolitan Seminary of Buenos Aires, and earned a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. On 2 December 1967 he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Juan Carlos Aramburu and became his secretary.[2]

He also served as curate of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Villa Urquiza until 1970. He then studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he obtained a doctorate in canon law, and the Pontifical Latin American College. In 1971, he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains papal diplomats.[3]

Diplomat and curial official[edit]

In 1974, Sandri became an official of the Apostolic Nunciature in Madagascar and Mauritius, which also serves as the Apostolic Delegation in the islands of Comoros and Réunion in the Indian Ocean.[1][2] He then served in the Vatican Secretariat of State, as secretary of the Substitute for General Affairs, including future cardinals Eduardo Martinez Somalo and Edward Cassidy from 1977 to 1989; and in the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States as permanent observer of the Holy See before the Organization of American States, from 1989 to 1991.[2]

He became regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household on 22 August 1991[citation needed] and assessor of the Section for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State on 2 April 1992.[4]

On 22 July 1997, Sandri was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela and Titular Archbishop of Aemona by Pope John Paul II.[5] He received his episcopal consecration on the following 11 October from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, with Cardinal Aramburu and Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re serving as co-consecrators, at St. Peter's Basilica. He selected as his episcopal motto: "Ille Fidelis", meaning, "He (Christ) remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). He was the first Argentinian to hold the title of Apostolic Nuncio.[6] After two years in Venezuela, he was named Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico on 1 March 2000.[7] During his brief tenure there he was tasked with restraining the Mexican bishops from intervening in political affairs.[2]

Coat of arms of Cardinal Sandri

On 16 September 2000, he was named Substitute for General Affairs,[8] a key position within the Roman Curia, serving essentially as the chief of staff of the Secretariat of State.[9]

As Pope John Paul's health declined, Sandri would read aloud the texts that the Pope could not deliver himself. On the evening of 2 April 2005 he announced the Pope's death from Saint Peter's Square, saying "We all feel like orphans this evening."[10][11]

Theodore McCarrick controversy[edit]

On 11 October 2006, while still serving in his sensitive position in the Vatican Secretariat of State, Sandri sent a letter to Father Boniface Ramsey, a New York City pastor who was a seminary professor from 1986 to 1996. Sandri did not mention McCarrick, but referred to "the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo."[12][13] Ramsey's 2000 letter was about complaints of sexual abuse of seminarians on the part of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when he was Archbishop of Newark (1986–2000). Ramsey made Sandri's letter public on 7 September 2018 to document that his letter to Montalvo had reached Rome and that the highest levels of the Vatican have long been aware of his charges against McCarrick.[12] By then McCarrick had resigned from the College of Cardinals, but he still faced a Church trial. In February 2019, the same month McCarrick was laicized by the Vatican, an image of Sandri's 2006 letter was published by the media; it accompanied a Commonweal article that Ramsey wrote.[14] On 5 February 2020, journalist Thomas J. Reese cited the Sandri-Ramsey correspondence in calling for a full review of the Secretariat's files as part of the Vatican investigation into McCarrick and in order to determine who in the Vatican's highest levels knew what about the charges against McCarrick.[15]

Congregation for the Oriental Churches[edit]

On 9 June 2007, Sandri was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches by Pope Benedict XVI.[16] Succeeding Ignatius I Daoud, he heads the curial congregation that handles matters regarding the Eastern Catholic Churches and is the ex officio Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Pope Francis confirmed that appointment on 19 February 2014.[17]

Sandri visited the Holy Land in February 2008.[18] In April 2009, he lamented the emigration of Christians from that region: "This lack of peace makes Christians emigrate and leave their land behind. So we're left with a purely geological, physical presence of Jesus, and not with the presence of those that grew with him and lived his faith, and that continue to follow him today like disciples of his very homeland."[19] In 2014 he called for an end to the forced removal of Christians from Iraq and Syria, saying that more than 100,000 Christians had left their homes in Iraq and "now wander to the city of Erbil in impossible conditions".[20]

One analysis of the delay in the canonization process for John Paul II pointed to, among other things, Sandri's apparent reluctance to testify in the effort.[21]

In November 2014 the Vatican lifted its 1929 ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood by Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada and Australia. Sandri signed the decree on 14 June 2014.[22][23]


Styles of
Leonardo Sandri
Coat of arms of Leonardo Sandri.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Benedict XVI created him Cardinal-Deacon of San Carlo ai Catinari in the consistory of 24 November 2007.[24][25][26] He delivered the message of thanksgiving to the Pope on behalf of the new cardinals on that occasion.[27]

In April 2008, Sandri said that although the regime of Saddam Hussein was dictatorial, it is undeniable that Iraqi clergy and laity felt more secure under his regime and that their liturgical life went on undisturbed.[28]

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 2008

He was mentioned in the press as papabile, a possible candidate for election to the papacy at the time of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.[29][30][31][32]

Sandri is also a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Pontifical Commission for Latin America and Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.[1] On 2 March 2010 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops.[33] On 31 May 2011 he was appointed a member of the Apostolic Signatura.[34] On 12 June 2012 Cardinal Sandri was appointed a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education.[35]

Sandri, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, was named by Pope Benedict XVI as one of four co-presidents of the Special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East held at the Vatican in October 2010.[36]

He is eligible to participate in a papal conclave until he reaches the age of 80 on 18 November 2023. He speaks English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.[2]

In June 2005 Archbishop Sandri was awarded Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[37]

He opted for the order of Cardinal Priests on 19 May 2018.[1] Pope Francis raised him to the rank of Cardinal Bishop effective 28 June 2018.[38] On 24 January 2020, Pope Francis approved his election as Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals by the nine Latin-rite cardinal-bishops.[39][40] With that title, as the highest-ranking cardinal eligible to participate in a conclave, he would preside over any conclave held before his 80th birthday.[41]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sandri Card. Leonardo" (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Leonardo Sandri, fidèle de Jean-Paul II". La Croix (in French). 10 March 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica, Ex-alunni 1950 – 1999" (in Italian). Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  4. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). LXXXIV. 1992. p. 471. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  5. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). LXXXIX. 1997. p. 598. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Mons. Sandri es el primer nuncio papal argentino". La Nación (in Spanish). 23 July 1997. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 03.01.2000" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 1 March 2000. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  8. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 16.09.2000" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 16 September 2000. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  9. ^ O'Connell, Gerard (11 June 2007). "Key Vatican appointment signals that Benedict's chosen team fully in place". UCA News. Archived from the original on 19 September 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  10. ^ "Pope John Paul II dies in Vatican". BBC. 3 April 2005.
  11. ^ "World Mourns Passing of Pope John Paul II". Fox News. 3 April 2005.
  12. ^ a b Duncan, Robert; Esteves, Junno Arocho (7 September 2018). "Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  13. ^ Harris, Elise (4 October 2018). "Argentinian prelate allegedly acknowledged McCarrick's misconduct". Crux. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  14. ^ Ramsey, Boniface (16 February 2019). "The Case of Theodore McCarrick: A Failure of Fraternal Correction". Commonweal. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  15. ^ Reese, Thomas J. (5 February 2020). "Who knew what about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick?". America. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 09.06.2007" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 9 June 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  17. ^ "Pope Confirms Cardinal Sandri as Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches". Zenit. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Vatican Prelate Visiting Eastern Catholics in Holy Land". Catholic World News. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Vatican asks for help in stopping exodus of Christians from Holy Land". Rome Reports. 8 April 2009. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  20. ^ "Cardinal Sandri: These Are Acts Against God, Against All Humanity". Zenit. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  21. ^ Roberts, Tom (3 June 2009). "What's behind delay in JPII canonization?". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  22. ^ Ieraci, Laura (17 November 2014). "Vatican lifts ban on married priests for Eastern Catholics in diaspora". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  23. ^ Smith, Peter Jesserer (7 January 2015). "Eastern-Catholic Married Priesthood Authorized in North America". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  24. ^ "Titular Churches of the new Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church". Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. 24 November 2007. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Pope Names 23 New Cardinals". Zenit. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  26. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (17 October 2007). "Complete List of New Cardinals". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  27. ^ "Indirizzo di Omaggio del Card. Leonardo Sandri". Holy See Press Office (in Italian). 24 November 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  28. ^ "Christians are in danger of disappearing from Iraq". 30 Days (Interview). 1 April 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Pope: Runners and riders". BBC News. BBC News. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  30. ^ "El argentino que puede ser Papa: la increíble historia de Leonardo Sandri". Tandil Diario (in Spanish). 28 February 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  31. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (20 February 2013). "Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  32. ^ O'Regan, Mary (9 March 2013). "The men who could be pope: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri". Catholic Herald. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 02.03.2010" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  34. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 31.05.2011" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  35. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 12.06.2012" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  36. ^ "Special Assembly for the Middle East - The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness (10-24 October 2010)". General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Sandri S.E.R. Mons. Leonardo". Presidenza della Repubblica (in Italian). 13 June 2005. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  38. ^ "Rescriptum ex Audientia Ss.mi" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 26 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  39. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 25.01.2020" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 25 January 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  40. ^ Mares, Courtney (25 January 2020). "Cardinal Re elected new dean of the College of Cardinals". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  41. ^ Lamb, Christopher (27 January 2020). "Re rises as cardinals' new dean". The Tablet. Retrieved 26 March 2020.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Crescenzio Sepe
Assessor for General Affairs
2 April 1992 – 22 July 1997
Succeeded by
James Michael Harvey
Preceded by
Oriano Quilici
Apostolic Nunico to Venezuela
22 July 1997 – 1 March 2000
Succeeded by
André Dupuy
Preceded by
Justo Mullor García
Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico
1 March 2000 – 16 September 2000
Succeeded by
Giuseppe Bertello
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Dino Monduzzi
Regent of the Papal Household
22 August 1991 – 2 April 1992
Succeeded by
Paolo De Nicolò
Preceded by
Maximino Romero de Lema
Titular Archbishop of Novigrad
22 July 1997 – 24 November 2007
Succeeded by
Beniamino Pizziol
Preceded by
Giovanni Battista Re
Substitute for General Affairs
16 September 2000 – 1 July 2007
Succeeded by
Fernando Filoni
Preceded by
Ignatius Moses I Daoud
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
1 July 2007 –
Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Oriental Institute
1 July 2007 –
Preceded by
Angelo Felici
Cardinal Deacon of Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari
24 November 2007 – 19 May 2018
Himself as Cardinal Priest
Himself as Cardinal Deacon Cardinal Priest 'pro hac vice' of Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari
19 May 2018 – 28 June 2018
Himself as Cardinal Bishop
Himself as Cardinal Priest Cardinal Bishop of Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari
28 June 2018 –
Preceded by
Giovanni Battista Re
Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals
18 January 2020 –