What is a Nuncio and what is his role?

An Apostolic Nuncio is the Pope's representative in a particular country and enables communication between the Holy See and the Government of that country.

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Nuncio means messenger and a simple description of the role of the Nuncio would be to say that he enables communication between the Holy See and the Government of the country in which he is stationed, and between the Pope and the Catholic Church in the country in which he is stationed. The Nuncio is to put it simply, the Pope’s ambassador in a particular country.

The diplomatic service of the Holy See is generally recognised as the oldest in the world and the best informed. In each country to which they are sent, Nuncios have access to a great depth and breadth of information from local Bishops, Missionaries, and Church members in general. In consequence the Holy See is considered to be uniquely well informed and its diplomatic assistance and advice is sought by many governments in many areas.

At first, Popes sent envoys to different countries, often with a fact-finding mission. They would go to a country and usually return to let him know what they had found out. In the sixteenth century this started to become more formalised; Angelo Leonini, sent to Venice by the Pope in 1500, is generally thought of as the first nuncio, as we understand the term today, and St Francis Xavier, (1506-51) one of the earliest Jesuits, was nominated by the Pope to represent him in the East on a missionary tour to Goa and India.

The current Papal (Apostolic) Nuncio to Great Britain is Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, who was appointed in December 2004 by Pope John Paul II. He was born in Spain and was ordained a priest in 1964. Before he came to Great Britain, he was apostolic nuncio to Cuba and Zaire. Preaching at Ampleforth Abbey in 2009, he said, ‘Our Blessed Lord asks that we, you and I, live out that love (the Lord’s love) in the concrete circumstances of our lives, with our families, friends and those persons whom we encounter in our daily activities. Experience teaches us this will at times be challenging and difficult.’ (Source: Ampleforth Abbey )

Prayer for the Pope

God our Father, shepherd and guide,
look with love on Benedict, your servant,
the pastor of your Church.
May his word and example inspire and guide the Church,
and may he, and all those entrusted to his care,
come to the joy of everlasting life.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


This article was written in 2010 by a member of the catechetical team at the Maryvale Institute.