THE appointment of Mgr. Igino Cardinale as Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain is seen in Rome as a blow for freedom in the ecumenical movement. He is regarded as a man specially equipped for marrying the Roman mind to the universal needs of the modern world.
Described as a "moderate progressive", the 47-year-old diplomat will be consecrated Titular Archbishop of Nepte on October 20, and will arrive in London early in December, after the second session of Vatican II is over. He has many friends here, both Catholic and Anglican, and speaks fluent English.
Mgr. Cardinale, who now succeeds the late Archbishop O'Hara, is the third Apostolic Delegate to this country. The first was Mgr. William Godfrey, later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
Master of a number of languages, experienced in the Middle East, and author of "The Holy See and Diplomacy", Mgr. Cardinale has also written on subjects ranging from consular law to the Eastern Church and ecumenism. He recently gave a series of lectures at an international diplomatic seminar in Salzburg, Austria.
The question again arises of the possibility of Britain's Apostolic Delegate being raised to the rank of a Papal Nuncio, with full diplomatic status. Normally, it is impossible for this to be done in non-Catholic countries, as the Holy See requires a Papal Nuncio to be received as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in the country where he is accredited.
There have been hints that the Holy See might drop this requirement, or alternatively that the papal envoy to Britain might he styled an Internuncio, which yields the best of both worlds.— diplomatic status without the position of diplomatic dean.
A Foreign Office spokesman told me this week that he was unaware of any such suggestion on an official level. and, when asked for an opinion on the idea, said he could make no comment at this stage.
Igino Cardinale was born on October 14, 1916. at Fonda, Italy, where his father had returned from Boston to serve in the first world war. In 1918 the family went back to Boston where the young Igino spent his childhood. Later he went to St. Agnes's Academy at College Point, New York.
The Cardinale family then went back again to Italy, where Fr. Cardinale studied at the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastics, the diplomatic "powerhouse", and was ordained in 1941. Five years later he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State. and was posted to the Apostolic Delegation to Egypt, Palestine, Transjordart. Arabia and Cyprus, under the late Mgr. Arthur Hughes.
Mgr. Cardinale played an important role in bringing about diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Holy See, in helping Arab refugees from Palestine. and in establishing friendly relations with non-Catholic Christian communities in the Middle East.
On the death of Mgr. Hughes in 1949, he served as Charge d'Affaires
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of the Papal Internunciature for several months. and remained in Cairo until 1952. when health reasons drove him back to Rome.
There he served as personal secretary to Mgr. Angelo Dell'Acqua. then Substitute Secretary of State to Pius XII. and in 1961 became chief of protocol, Last year he was named under-secretary of the Technical and Organisational Commission of the Ecumenical Council.
It is believed in Rome that the Pope wishes to reconsider the function of Papal Envoys generally. It has been felt that they often formed a barrier between the Pope and the local bishops, and thus diluted the collegiate character of the universal episcopate. But Mgr. Cardinale is reputedly not a man to fall into that error.
It is also thought possible that papal envoys may have less influence in future on the appointment of bishops.