Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, died Aug. 29 in Rome. He was 95.
In a message of condolence to the family of the cardinal, who died Aug. 29 in Rome, Pope Francis noted that the cardinal’s decades at the Vatican included service to seven popes.
Cardinal Silvestrini will be remembered for “a life spent in adhering to his vocation as a priest attentive to the needs of others, a skillful and adaptable diplomat and a pastor faithful to the Gospel and to the Church,” Pope Francis said.
Born in the northern Italian city of Brisighella, he was ordained a priest in 1946 and received doctorates from the University of Bologna and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome before entering the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which provides training to priests for service in the Vatican diplomatic corps.
As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, he focused on international issues concerning Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He accompanied Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then-Vatican secretary of state, to Moscow in 1971 to deliver the Holy See’s adhesion to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In 1979, he was named by St. John Paul II as secretary of the former Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States. As secretary, a position equivalent to foreign minister, he represented the Vatican on diplomatic missions to Spain, Malta, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Poland and Haiti.
He was created a cardinal in 1988 and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, where he served until 1991 when St. John Paul appointed him prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
The Vatican called upon Cardinal Silvestrini’s diplomatic experience in areas of tension. In May 1993, he led a Vatican delegation to meet with then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.