My first meeting with His Grace Mgr Alessandro D’Errico was shortly after he arrived in Malta in April 2017, when he was introduced to me during a National Day reception. I was still Foreign Minister then. We had been missing the presence of an Apostolic Nuncio for quite some time as his predecessor, His Grace Mgr Mario Roberto Cassari who was appointed Nuncio to Malta in 2015, was hardly ever in Malta, due to severe health problems that kept him away from his duties. Mgr D’Errico immediately engaged me in a conversation that clearly showed that he had studied his Malta brief really well and was aware of the main political issues pertaining at that time.
His warmth and readiness to speak and discuss reminded me of a predecessor of his as Apostolic Nuncio, with whom as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and also on a personal level, I had built up a very pleasant relationship. I am referring to the late Mgr José Sebastian Laboa Gallego (1995-1998) who was more than a Nuncio; he became a friend.
When Mgr D’Errico arrived in Malta he brought with him years of diplomatic experience, which he had accumulated in his long years in the diplomatic service of the Holy See in difficult and challenging posts in Thailand, Brazil, Greece, and Poland, besides the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and his vast pastoral experience in his home country Italy. Since 1998, as Apostolic Nuncio he was appointed to Pakistan and Afghanistan, then to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and subsequently to Montenegro, followed by Croatia, before coming to Malta. As a diplomat an Apostolic Nuncio enjoys secular powers, but besides diplomatic relations a Nuncio has also to represent the Holy Father’s moral and spiritual authority, engage in ecclesiastical, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and nurture the healthiest of relations between Church and State.
Over and above all this an Apostolic Nuncio also carries the responsibility of coordinating his diplomatic activity with the pastoral activity of the local Church dignitaries. As can be easily surmised from the well-known political situations and developments in the countries in which His Grace Mgr D’Errico was posted as Apostolic Nuncio, especially in the complicated political and equally delicate balance between different religions, especially in the Balkan regions, his experience is next to none.
Looking back on the five years he spent as Nuncio in Malta, I am sure that this must have been for him, the most straightforward of times in his brilliant career. In Malta he had no outstanding problems to speak of in the relations between the State and the Holy See. He presided on excellent relations, and had the pleasure to witness the elevation of one of our bishops to the Cardinalate. Naturally, he also was very much engaged in the selection of a new bishop for Gozo and an auxiliary bishop for Malta.
I have had a very close and open relationship with Mgr D’Errico, making frequent use of messaging through WhatsApp, and never missing the opportunity to exchange a few words, even during the most solemn of occasions when we met from time to time.
During the difficult political developments that were taking place in Malta towards the end of 2019, the Apostolic Nuncio did express his concerns, but always kept his correct diplomatic distance from the matter. These last two years found us speaking more frequently to each other because of the planning and the subsequent postponements to the Holy Father’s visit which we had to agree upon because of Covid-19 restrictions. Mgr D’Errico comes across as a very warm personality, approachable, and caring. He has contributed a lot to Vatican diplomacy, and merits enjoying his retirement.
When he informed me last January about his planned retirement, I instantly replied: “Per quanto alla notizia del termine del Suo lavoro diplomatico qui a Malta, posso solamente dire che mi rattrista, perche in Lei ho trovato non solamente un diplomatico bravo, corretto ed attento, ma anche una persona umile e sempre pronta a dialogare e scambiare complimenti di rispetto reciproco”.
I thank His Grace Mgr D’Errico for his service to maintain the best of relations between Malta and the Holy See, and wish that after the much-awaited visit of the Holy Father to Malta, he starts enjoying a well-earned retirement.