The Vatican will appoint Archbishop Christophe Pierre to be the new ambassador to the United States, replacing an ambassador whose tenure has sparked controversy, reports say.
The Jesuit news organization America and longtime Vatican reporter Sandro Magister said Thursday that they expect Pierre will be appointed the Apostolic Nuncio, though the Holy See has not yet announced its choice for the position.
Pierre, 70, who was born in France, speaks fluent English and has served the Catholic Church as a diplomat all over the world, dating to 1977, America reported. His most recent job — following terms as nuncio to Uganda and Haiti — is nuncio to Mexico.
In moving from Mexico to the United States, he might bring to Washington an emphasis on immigration issues, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border where Pope Francis recently visited to offer a prayer.
America said that the Vatican normally would not declare that someone has been nominated to this diplomatic position until the White House approved the Vatican’s choice of ambassador.
The current Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has reached the statutory retirement age, according to America.
Viganò was in the spotlight in September, when he hosted an unexpected meeting at his D.C. residence between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, inflaming a nationwide debate over her decision.
In the whirl of questions over why Francis had met Davis on his trip to the United States and who had planned the encounter, the Vatican said that Davis was “invited by the Nuncio” and referred questions about why Davis was on the guest list to Viganò’s office.
Viganò was often more outspoken in his antagonism to same-sex marriage than others in the church. And before his appointment to Washington, he made enemies in the Vatican when he tried to enforce reforms while he worked for Pope Benedict XVI.