The cardinal's biretta for the apostolic nuncio Pope Francis’ "beloved and tormented" Syria testifies to the "value diplomacy" in a region engulfed by war and violence, where "several embassies have closed in recent years", to send a signal saying "it is important to stay in this place".
This is according to Msgr. Mario Zenari, Apostolic
nuncio in Syria, yesterday appointed to the College of Cardinals by
Pope Francis, at the end of the Mass for the Marian Jubilee. A choice,
the cardinal-designate continues, which confirms the Pope’s will to
"keep diplomatic channels open”, to resolve the conflict, "elevating"
the value of the nunciature.
"Granting the dignity of Cardinal to an ambassador - underlines Msgr.
Zenari, unabashedly surprised by the Pope’s choice - has added value, in
addition to the primary sense of the appointment. And it also confirms
Pope Francis’ predilection for Syria, for the Christians of that land
and all its people. "
Yesterday in St. Peter's Square, to the surprise of all those present,
Pope Francis announced a new consistory on November 19, the eve of the
conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy. He will also create 17 new
cardinals, including his diplomatic representative, Msgr. Mario Zenari,
"who has remained, as nuncio in the beloved and battered Syria".
Magr. Mario Zenari was born in Villafranca di Verona on January 5,
1946. On July 5, 1979 he was ordained a priest for the diocese of
Verona. He holds a degree in Canon Law, and entered into the diplomatic
service of the Holy See in 1980, working in the papal representations in
Senegal, Liberia, Colombia, Germany, Romania. On 25 March 1993 he was
appointed Nunciature Advisor; the following year he was appointed
permanent representative of the Holy See to the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE).
He also held the post of permanent observer to the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and at the Vienna
International Centre. On July 12, 1999, John Paul II appointed him
Apostolic Nuncio to the Ivory Coast and Niger (Burkina Faso and later).
His episcopal ordination was celebrated on September 25. On 10 May 2004
he was appointed to Sri Lanka, where he remained until December 30, 2008
when Pope Benedict XVI named him apostolic nuncio in Syria.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the new prelate emphasizes the
"exceptional nature" of this appointment "of a nuncio, who then keeps
his job". This is a "sign", he adds, of the Pope’s "strong preference"
for Syria "beyond my modest person. "An eloquent and strong gesture - he
continues - at a time when the country is dying in such an atrocious
manner ... A further reminder and thought for Syria, its poor people,
the blood shed by innocent civilians, children: This honor is for them".
"The choice - says Msgr. Zenari - also has a political value and has not
gone unnoticed in the eyes of the government in Damascus. It indicates a
strengthening of the embassy and the Pope himself who, as he announced
it made it clear that the nuncio remains in 'beloved and battered'
Syria, giving a great significance to his words". It is said that the
Pope looks to the suburbs, the cardinal-designate adds, but "Syria is
not a periphery for the Pope, it is at the center of his thoughts".
The Vatican diplomat has received many messages, even from Syria,
congratulations and best wishes "even if - he admits - I have not had
time to read them all." Among the many he speaks of a phone call with
the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, who is also the president
of the church hierarchy in Syria. The news says Msgr. Zenari, I
received "from my brother in law, over lunch at the conclusion of the
parish Mass in my native country [Msgr. Zenari is currently in Italy,
set to return to Syria mid-week]. At first I did not believe it ... ".
In recent months Msgr. Zenari met several times Pope Francis: one such
occasion was the recent dinner with nuncios and cardinals in the
Vatican, during which the pontiff asked that the apostolic nuncio in
Syria sit at his table. "That night - says the prelate - the Holy Father
recalled that already three years ago I was sitting at the same table,
on the occasion of a dinner". In reference to recent calls for Syria
and, in particular, Aleppo, "the Pope replied that he felt he had to
utter those words, and I also believe that he spoke off the cuff,
leaving aside the official text ... When he talks about Syria, the Pope
does so with his heart ! ".
"Being nuncio in Syria as a Cardinal - concluded Msgr. Zenari - and with
such a strong support of the pontiff is both an honor and a burden. My
mission receives an inestimable value. In Syria, there is still room for
diplomacy, we have try everything to make openings. Even in the face of
the most extreme positions, the vocation of diplomacy is to do the