This year marks 50 years since the beginning of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Australia. To mark the occasion, His Excellency Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Vatican Secretary for Relations with States) will be spending time in Australia this month, including a visit to Melbourne on Thursday 9 November.

Through its Secretariat of State, the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 183 countries and is a member of various United Nations subsidiary bodies, specialised agencies and international intergovernmental organisations.

Archbishop Gallagher’s visit seeks to recognise the important relationship between the Vatican and Australia, where according to the 2021 Census, almost 20 per cent of the population identifies as Catholic. It also highlights the ongoing contributions of the Catholic Church, particularly on the global stage, where the Vatican has and continues to play a key role in advocating for peaceful dialogue and negotiations, especially in war-torn countries and other places of conflict.

The Secretary for Relations with States recently delivered a series of addresses as part of the 78th United Nations General Assembly. In one address, Archbishop Gallagher stressed the importance of multilateral forums such as the UN as places where ‘authentic encounter and dialogue’ between states can take place. He called it the ‘primary vocation’ of multilateral forums and said there was a need for such forums to ‘rediscover a spirit of service’. That, he said, could only be done if the participating members were willing to listen to each other.

Speaking at the High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, Archbishop Gallagher emphasised the role that faith organisations continue to play in providing healthcare across the globe. He said that approximately one quarter of all healthcare facilities are Catholic, and in some places ‘faith-based organisations are the only healthcare providers.’

In another speech focused on human rights, Archbishop Gallagher said that more work needs to be done to ensure that the fundamental rights of men, women and children to exist, to access education, to work and to practise their religion are upheld and protected by member states—especially in light of this year’s 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

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Archbishop Paul Gallagher speaking at the UN in September 2023. (Photo: OSV News.)

Archbishop Gallagher has served in the role of Vatican Secretary for Relations with States since 2014. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1977 and, after serving as an assistant priest and hospital chaplain, took up studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, where he graduated with a doctorate in canon law. His postings as a Vatican diplomat saw him spend time in parts of Africa, South America and Asia. In 2004, he was appointed an Archbishop and became Apostolic Nuncio to Burundi. He later served as Apostolic Nuncio to Guatemala (2009–2012) before his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.

In 2014, Pope Francis appointed him as Secretary for Relations with States.

Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See is Her Excellency Chiara Porro, who was appointed to the role in 2020.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Vatican, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli is delighted to welcome His Excellency Most Rev Paul Gallagher (Secretary for the Relations with States and International Organisations, Secretariat of State, Holy See) and His Excellency Most Rev Charles Balvo (Apostolic Nuncio to Australia) to Melbourne next week.

As part of their visit, Archbishops Gallagher and Balvo will join Archbishop Comensoli and clergy of the Archdiocese to celebrate Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday 9 November, 5.30pm. All are welcome.