Leonardo Sandri

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His Eminence
Leonardo Sandri
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
BISHOP card leonardo sandri 2014.jpg
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, on 11th Oct. 2014, to the Chair of Saint Peter
Appointed 9 June 2007
Predecessor Ignatius Daoud
Other posts Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari
Ordination 2 December 1967
by Juan Carlos Aramburu
Consecration 11 October 1997
by Angelo Sodano
Created Cardinal 24 November 2007
by Pope Benedict XVI
Rank Cardinal-Deacon
Personal details
Born (1943-11-18) 18 November 1943 (age 73)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nationality Argentine
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post
Motto Ille fidelis (He [remains] faithful)
2 Timothy 2:13
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}

Leonardo Sandri (born 18 November 1943) is an Argentine Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in the Roman Curia, having previously served 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. Was Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela (1997–2000), Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico (2000) and Substitute for General Affairs (2000–2007). He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2007. The press named Cardinal Sandri as a papabile (a possible or likely successor for election to the Papacy) following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, effective 28 February 2013.[1] However the conclave elected his fellow Argentine, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, as Pope Francis.


Early life and ordination[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.[2] 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.[3]

Pastoral work[edit]

He then served as parochial vicar of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Villa Urquiza and secretary to Archbishop Aramburu until 1970, when he was sent to further his studies in Rome. He there attended the Pontifical Gregorian University, from where he obtained a doctorate in canon law, and the Pontifical Latin American College.[4] In 1971, he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains papal diplomats.[2]

Diplomatic work[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.[2]

He then served in the Vatican Secretariat of State, as secretary of the Substitute for General Affairs, 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.

He became regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household on 22 August 1991, 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.


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.[3] He selected as his episcopal motto: "Ille Fidelis", meaning, "He (Christ) remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). After two years in Venezuela, he briefly served as Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico from 1 March to 16 September 2000, when he was named Substitute for General Affairs.[3]

Secretariat of State[edit]

Coat of arms of Cardinal Sandri

As Substitute, Sandri held the third most important position within the Vatican (after the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Pope himself), serving essentially as the chief of staff of the Secretariat of State.[5]

During the time of John Paul II's declining health, he would read the texts that the Pope could not personally deliver; he later announced the Pope's death to the world from St. Peter's Square on the evening of 2 April 2005, saying, "Our Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father...We all feel like orphans this evening."[6][7]

In April 2005 Archbishop Sandri was awarded Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[8]

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.[9] 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.

Sandri, who visited the Holy Land in February 2008,[10] has lamented the emigration of Christians from that region, saying, "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."[11] Some have attributed the delay in the canonization process for John Paul II to Sandri's apparent reluctance to testify in the effort.[12]


Styles of
Leonardo Sandri
Coat of arms of Leonardo Sandri.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

Benedict XVI created him Cardinal-Deacon of San Carlo ai Catinari in the consistory of 24 November 2007.[4] He delivered the message of thanksgiving to the Pope on behalf of the new cardinals.[13]

In addition to his duties as Cardinal Prefect, Cardinal Sandri is 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.[2] On 2 March 2010 he was appointed a member of the Congregation for Bishops.[14] On 31 May 2011 he was appointed a member of the Apostolic Signatura.[15] He is eligible to participate in a papal conclave until he reaches the age of 80 on 18 November 2023. As the senior Cardinal-Deacon eligible to participate in a conclave, Sandri would announce the election of a new pope.

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

He speaks English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.[4] On 12 June 2012 Cardinal Sandri was appointed a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education.[16]

In November 2014 the Vatican has lifted its ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territories, including in the United States, Canada and Australia. Pope Francis approved lifting the ban, also doing away with the provision that, in exceptional cases, Eastern Catholic bishops in the diaspora could receive Vatican approval to ordain married men. In recent years, however, some Eastern Catholic bishops went ahead with such ordinations discreetly without Vatican approval. Cardinal Sandri, signed the decree 14 June 2014. It was published later online in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official periodical through which Vatican laws and decisions are published.[17]


Jewish-Christian relations[edit]

Cardinal Sandri was present at Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Yad Vashem memorial and commented that his speech was a source of joy for both Christians and Jews.[18]

Iraqi Christians[edit]

Sandri has 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.[19]

Religious illiteracy[edit]

Cardinal Sandri has praised the work of L'Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Publishing House for their work in combatting religious, biblical and ecclesial illiteracy.[20]



External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Oriano Quilici
Apostolic Nunico to Venezuela
22 July 1997–1 March 2000
Succeeded by
André Pierre Louis 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
Giovanni Battista Re
Substitute for General Affairs
16 September 2000–1 July 2007
Succeeded by
Fernando Filoni
Preceded by
Ignatius Daoud
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
1 July 2007–present