What is a papal nuncio?

A Papal nuncio is a papal ambassador, i.e. a permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to a state or an international organization. According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a papal nuncio is an ambassador equal to an ambassador from any other country. However in Catholic countries the papal nuncio may rank above other ambassadors in diplomatic protocol.

The papal nuncio serves as the liaison between the Holy See and the Roman Catholic diocesan episcopate in the nation, region or organization in which he is placed. The region or nation is normally supervised by a regional conference of bishops, whose presiding officer is often the highest ranking bishop of that nation. Alternately the presiding officer is elected from the diocesan ordinaries of the nation or region.

Basically the papal nuncio is a permanent representative of the pope who is assigned with the task of safeguarding the interests of the Holy See. The mission of the papal nuncio includes both diplomatic and ecclesiastical powers. The office of the papal nuncio is specifically defined within certain territories in which he officiates. His primary mission is to protect all the interests of the Holy See. The Papal Nuncio's appointment is permanent. The office of the papal nuncio was initiated during the 16th century.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with various nations and organizations and so there is a need for representatives in order to oversee these relations. For instance, the views of the Holy See on different matters must be presented. These views need to be presented by the pope but because of the many commitments among other barriers; the pope cannot manage to represent himself in all the regions. That is the main reason as to why the papal nuncio position was established. The papal nuncio represents the pope and acts as a link between the Holy See and the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is spread all over the world. The church has one worldwide leader- the Pope. He is the leader of all Catholics across the world. But as a way of designating some of the responsibilities, the pope appoints papal nuncios to represent him and the interests of the Catholic Church in various countries. When the pope visits other countries, it is the papal nuncio who welcomes him and gives him the detailed information about the diplomatic and ecclesiastical developments.

The papal nuncios are stationed in many countries all over the world including countries in Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. However, there are a total of sixteen countries with which the Holy See does not have diplomatic relations. This means that there are no papal nuncios in these countries. The countries are: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Oman, Comoros, Mauritania, Brunei, the Maldives, South Sudan, Bhutan, Burma, Tuvalu, The People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and The Socialist Republic of Vietnam.