Published: Friday January 18, 2013 MYT 12:25:00 PM
Updated: Friday January 18, 2013 MYT 5:02:11 PM
Vatican appoints first ambassador to Malaysia (Updated)
PETALING JAYA: Pope Benedict XVI has appointed American Archbishop Joseph Marino (pix) as the first resident Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, after deciding to open a new nunciature (embassy) in Kuala Lumpur.
The Nuncio is the Pope's diplomatic representative having the rank of ambassador.
The announcement is seen as a highly significant development in relations between the Holy See and this south-east Asian Islamic state, said a report in Vatican Insider on Wednesday.
The report said the Pope has also appointed Marino as Apostolic Nuncio to East Timor (Timor Leste) and Apostolic Delegate to Brunei Darussalam.
The Vatican statement does not mention the opening of a new nunciature but sources have confirmed this will happen.
This important development in bi-lateral relations between the Holy See and Malaysia comes after both sides agreed to establish diplomatic relations when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak met Pope Benedict in July 2011.
Malaysia became the 179th state to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Observers hailed this as a significant step to fostering good relations between Christians and Muslims not only in Malaysia but internationally.
Meanwhile, in PUTRAJAYA, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak welcomed Marino's appointment.
"I am delighted by the appointment of Archbishop Joseph Marino as the first Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia.
"Having established diplomatic ties in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI and I vowed to work together to increase understanding between Christians and Muslims.
"The appointment is a testament to this commitment. It is my hope that we can continue to build greater unity between world religions," he said Friday.
Ties with Vatican bode well for unity
Links with the Vatican hailed as a boost to religious harmony
Malaysia and Vatican agree on historic diplomatic link
Najib: Malaysia to establish diplomatic ties with The Vatican
PM to meet the Pope on July 18