Laghi, Pio Cardinal (1922 – 2009)
Italian cardinal; papal diplomat. Former US Apostolic Delegate. Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
Christmas card with handwritten message: I reciprocate every good wish for a blessed 1998 with kind regards, Pio Card. Laghi.
Laghi was awarded doctorates in theology (1947) and canon law (1950) from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. Entered the Secretariat of State in 1952 and then served as secretary of the nunciature in Nicaragua until 1955. Went on to serve as Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine. During his term in Jerusalem, Laghi also served as Pro-Nuncio to Cyprus and Apostolic Visitor to Greece. He was appointed Nuncio to Argentina in 1974. His six years in Argentina coincided with the worst excesses of the military dictatorship there in what now is known as the dirty war.
On a less stellar note in an otherwise remarkable diplomatic career, many felt that he and other prelates supported the military and that he turned a blind eye to the murder and disappearances of thousands. Responded Laghi: Perhaps I wasn’t a hero, but I was no accomplice. The debate that his conduct generated was enough, however, to ruin any chance he ever had of becoming pope.
Pope St. John Paul II transferred him as Apostolic Delegate to the United States (1980) and Pro-Nuncio (1984) entrusting him with placing conservatives in key posts, such as Bernard Law in Boston and John O’Connor in NY. In 1990, Pope John Paul II appointed him Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He was created a cardinal the following year.
Laghi headed the Congregation for Catholic Education until his resignation in 1999. From 1999-2001 he was cardinal protodeacon (longest serving cardinal deacon) before exercise his right as a cardinal deacon of 10 years’ standing to become a cardinal-priest. In 2000, Laghi was awarded the F. Sadlier Dinger Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the ministry of religious education in America. Laghi was Patronus of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In 2003, Laghi, as special envoy to the United States, met with President George W. Bush and conveyed the pope’s request that the U.S. reconsider its decision to go to war against Iraq. Bush was photographed with Laghi and commented that he was an old family friend. During the presidency of Bush’s father, George H.W., Laghi, as Nuncio to the US., was a frequent guest of Bush senior and his family.
Given Pio Laghi’s remarkable ecclesiastical career, and the controversy in Argentina, he is a prime candidate for a biography to be certain.