Cardinal Tauran’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy made the world a safer place

The death of French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has robbed the Church of one of its most skilful diplomats and one of most widely respected churchmen in the Muslim world.

Cardinal Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, died at the age of 75 in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was receiving medical treatment. He had been living with Parkinson’s disease for years, but led a Vatican delegation to Saudi Arabia as recently as April.

But it was his role as “proto-deacon” ­– the top-ranking cardinal deacon ­– that put him more squarely in the spotlight. On March 13, 2013, he appeared on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica (pictured) to announce to the world, “Habemus papam” (“We have a Pope”).

In a telegram to the cardinal’s sister, Pope Francis sent his condolences and praised the cardinal’s “sense of service and his love for the Church”. Cardinal Tauran left a deep and lasting mark, the Pope said, noting the great trust and esteem in which he was held, particularly by Muslims. “I have fond memories of this man of profound faith who courageously served the Church of Christ to the end, despite the weight of disease,” he wrote.

Born in Bordeaux, on April 5, 1943, Jean-Louis Tauran was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 and entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1975. He worked in apostolic nunciatures in the Dominican Republic and Lebanon from 1975 to 1983. He was a representative to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe from 1983 to 1988, pressing the Vatican’s position on human rights at a time when Soviet Bloc regimes were weakening.

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