Styles of
Giovanni Cheli
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
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Giovanni Cheli (born 4 October 1918, Turin, Italy) is a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and was, along with Achille Silvestrini and Pio Laghi, one of the most prominent Vatican diplomats under Pope John Paul II.

Early life and ordination

Cheli was educated at the seminary of Asti and soon developed his skills in canon law. At the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome he obtained his doctorate in that subject in 1942 and was ordained on 21 April of that year. Cheli returned to the parish of Asti and became diocesan vice-counselor of the Young Men of Catholic Action, and after pastoral work in Rome, he entered the Vatican diplomatic service in 1952. At first, Cheli had the minor role of attaché of the nunciature in Guatemala, but rose to more important roles in Spain and Italy itself. During this period Cheli continued to do pastoral work in Madrid and later he worked for the Pontifical Council for Public Affairs from 1967 to 1973.

Church diplomat

Cheli's place as a major Vatican diplomat, however, was secured only when he became a permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in 1973 and again in 1976. By this time Cheli was known for his knowledge of the problems the Vatican encountered relating to the Communist nations of Eastern Europe, and it was natural that he would soon become a bishop - which he did in 1978, unusually being consecrated during the short reign of Pope John Paul I. His combination of knowledge of the Curia and pastoral-mindedness fitted Cheli perfectly for the role of President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which he held continuously for two decades following the start of John Paul II's reign as Pope.


John Paul II created Cheli Cardinal-Deacon of Ss. Cosma e Damiano in the consistory of February 24, 1998. This was seen as a reward for his service as a Vatican diplomat, but his elevation was almost an anticlimax because within a year he had passed the age limit for voting in a conclave.


Invasion of Iraq

In other respects, too, Cheli has become strangely outspoken for a cardinal appointed by John Paul II. He has been the most vehement critic in the Church of the US invasion of Iraq since 2001.

Age limit for Cardinals

Since turning eight, Cardinals Cheli and Silvestrini have become regarded as the bluntest critics of the rule on over-age cardinals, with Cheli on Silvestrini's eightieth birthday (five years after himself turning eighty) saying to The Observer in December 2003: "It is a great deprivation for cardinals. Perhaps different limits can be used in future. Perhaps those whose minds have gone should not vote. We all know who they are. And some of them are in their seventies."

Curial appointments

More recently, he has voiced his criticism of some of Pope Benedict XVI's appointments within the Roman Curia:[1][not in citation given] Cheli believes Benedict is failing to take diplomatic experience adequately into account when choosing prelates for the Secretariat of State. On 1 March 2008 he was elevated to Cardinal Priest. His titular deaconry was elevated pro hac vice to title after 10 years as a cardinal deacon.

Preceded by
Alberto Giovannetti
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
25 July 1973–18 September 1986
Succeeded by
Renato Raffaele Martino

External links

fi:Giovanni Cheli

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