Italian Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan passed away on March 5, 2022 at the age of 95, Vatican News reports. After serving as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, he presided over the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) from 1998 to 2002, during the pontificate of John Paul II. The Polish pope created him a cardinal at the 2001 consistory, alongside Archbishop Bergoglio, the current Pope Francis.
Agostino Cacciavillan, born in 1926 and ordained a priest in 1949, was originally from the diocese of Vicenza, in the Veneto region – like the current Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
After three years of service in a parish in Bassano del Grappa and following studies in civil and canon law in Rome, he studied at the Ecclesiastical Academy from 1957 to 1959, before entering the service of papal diplomatic corps during the pontificate of John XXIII.
In the 1960s, he served as secretary to the nunciature in the Philippines, Spain and Portugal, before returning to the Vatican from 1968 to 1976 as head of the information and documentation service of the Secretariat of State.
Nuncio to Kenya, India and the United States
In 1976, Paul VI appointed him Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and he was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Secretary of State Jean Villot. He remained in Nairobi until 1981, and at the same time was appointed as the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, whose headquarters are in the Kenyan capital.
In 1981, John Paul II appointed him Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India, and in 1985 he became the first Apostolic Pro-Nuncio accredited to the Kingdom of Nepal.
In 1990, he became Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and remained so until 1998. Under his mandate, World Youth Day was held in Denver in 1993. This period was marked by difficult relations between the Holy See and the Clinton administration, due to profound disagreements on issues of bioethics and the protection of life.
In 1998, Archbishop Cacciavillan returned to Rome where he became, for four years, president of the APSA, the organization that oversees the management of the Vatican’s real estate and financial investments, and which today plays the role of a “central bank.” He was created a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001, with the deaconry of the Church of the Holy Guardian Angels in Città Giardino.
Cardinal Cacciavillan participated in the conclave of 2005 that lead to the election of Benedict XVI, but not in that of 2013, having already exceeded the age limit of 80 years.
Questions about his role in the McCarrick affair
In November 2020, Cardinal Cacciavillan’s name appeared in the report published by the Secretariat of State in November 2020 on the McCarrick affair, named after the former American cardinal dismissed from the priesthood in 2019 for cases of sexual abuse against minors and adult seminarians.
In 1999, when accusations were sent to Rome about the morals of the American archbishop – then stationed in Newark and considered for promotion to New York or Washington – the former nuncio to the United States provided a note in which he put the reported allegations against McCarrick into perspective, insisting that they were “rumors.”
Referring to a priest who had potentially been a victim of the prelate’s behavior and mentioned in Cardinal O’Connor’s letter, Archbishop Cacciavillan wrote, “As I recall, in 1995 the belief was that the priest was psychologically disturbed and unreliable.”
Bishop Cacciavillan said at the time that “it might be better for McCarrick to be appointed to Washington than to New York,” the archdiocese in which he had been a priest. He also said he was “not in favor” of soliciting people who could help the Holy See get to the bottom of the case. He explained that “nothing new would be learned, and worse, a ‘trial situation’ could be created against Archbishop McCarrick, giving the impression of great unease.”
Consulted again in September 2000, he endorsed McCarrick’s name in an opinion paper sent to the Congregation for Bishops for the selection of the new archbishop of the US capital. In it, he said there was no need to “fear the appearance or reappearance of news in the press” if McCarrick were to be named Archbishop of Washington, as it would be easily cleared up.
Funeral to be celebrated on March 7
His funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, March 7, 2022, at 11 a.m., at the altar of St. Peter’s Chair, with Cardinal Re, the Dean of the Sacred College, presiding. As is the tradition for funerals of cardinals residing in Rome, Pope Francis will give the final blessing.
In a telegram released on the evening of March 5 by the Holy See Press Office and addressed to the sister of the deceased cardinal, Pope Francis pays tribute to “this brother who, with exemplary dedication and acuity of thought, generously spread his many talents received for the good of the Church.”
He recalls his many duties at the service of the Holy See, which he carried out “with great competence, tireless self-sacrifice and cheerful openness, especially in the field of papal diplomacy,” the Pontiff said.
At present, the Sacred College now has 212 cardinals, including 119 electors and 93 non-electors.