Slovenia-born Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic will be the Holy See’s next Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, a significant appointment given his experience in diplomacy.
Archbishop Jurkovic has served as nuncio to Russia and Uzbekistan since 2011. The announcement of his new role came on Feb. 13, just one day after Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba for the historic first encounter of a Pope and a Russian Patriarch.
Given Archbishop Jurkovic’s diplomatic experience, some believe his appointment aims to assist in the rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Moscow. He will have several roles, including Permanent Observer to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Agencies in Geneva and Permanent Observer to the World Trade Organizatio
The archbishop was born in Kocevje, Slovenia. He served as a priest in Ljubljana for 24 years before beginning his diplomatic career.
He represented the Holy See in Moscow from 1992-1996. Then in 2001 he was named archbishop and appointed as nuncio to Belarus. Just three years later, in 2004, he was appointed nuncio to Ukraine.
He continued the legacy of Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the former nuncio to Ukraine who is now nuncio to the United Kingdom. Archbishop Mennini helped to normalize relations between Russia and the Holy See, up to the point of the full establishment of diplomatic relations.
Archbishop Jurkovic’s nomination as nuncio to Russia and Uzbekistan took place immediately after the February 2011 visit between the then-president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, and Pope Benedict XVI.
In his role as nuncio to Russia, the archbishop participated in all of the steps that culminated in the historic Feb. 12, 2016 meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. The two Christian leaders signed a joint declaration at the meeting.
Archbishop Jurkovich will now take over for Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, who will retire this year when he turns 75. Archbishop Tomasi served as Permanent Observer to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Agencies in Geneva for more than 10 years.
Archbishop Tomasi first began his diplomatic service in 1996 when he was named archbishop and nuncio to Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2000 he was named nuncio to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. In 2003 he was moved to Geneva.
On Saturday the Vatican also announced additional responsibilities for the American priest Monsignor Bryan Wells. He has now been named as nuncio to the southern African countries of Lesotho and Namibia. He was recently appointed nuncio to South Africa and Botswana.