Card. Beniamino Stella

Card. Stella Beniamino, reaches the leading of the Congregation for Clergy after a long experience at the Secretary of State’s office and in several pontifical representations. For his education he has to thank Albino Luciani, who effectively — when he was bishop of his native Vittorio Veneto Dioceses— enabled him to begin his studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in 1966. And just in the prestigious institution situated in Piazza della Minerva, where ecclesiastics are educated to the Holy See’s diplomatic service, to which within more than forty years, in 2007, Stella goes back as president.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, was born in Pieve di Soligo (Treviso), in the Vittorio Veneto Dioceses, on 18 August 1941, by Giuseppe and Rosa Pederiva, and was baptized on the following day. He belongs to a country family from the Alto Trevigiano area; he is the second of twelve children.

At young age he entered the diocesan Episcopal seminary, where he stayed till the classical high school diploma. In 1960 he moved to Rome, at the Major Roman Pontifical Seminary, in order to continue his studies at the Pontifical Lateran University. He graduated in philosophy and, hereafter, in theology.

He was ordained to the priesthood on 19 March 1966 by his uncle, Monsignor Costantino Stella, archbishop of L’Aquila Diocese.

When his theological studies had been carried out, on October 1966 he was called by the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the archbishop Gino Paro, originating from Ponte di Piave, to undertake the educational path to the Holy See’s diplomatic service. With the agreement of the bishop Luciani — who was elected Pope in 1978 by the name of Giovanni Paolo I — he entered the Academy, where he remained for four years, from 1966 to 1970, awarding a degree in Canon Law and a Ph.D. in International Law on the subject of the religious freedom in United Nations documents.

On February 1970 he was sent to the Apostolic Nunciature of Santo Domingo, where he remained for three years, before transferring for another triennial to the pontifical representation of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (at that time Zaire).

In 1976 he was called to the Vatican to the Church’s Public Affairs Council (now incorporates by the Section for the Relations with States of the Secretary of State), where he works closely with the secretary, the archbishop Agostino Casaroli, and the undersecretary, Monsignor Achille Silvestrini. Two years after he was sent to the Apostolic Nunciature of Malta as chargé d’affaires. He remained there till 1983, because the apostolic nuncio was absent for local political reasons.

In 1983 he was called back to the Church’s Public Affairs Council, about which, in the meantime, the archbishop Silvestrini became the secretary. During those years he primarily focused on the issues concerning Latin America. On 21 August 1987, liturgical memorial for St. Pio X, he was nominated tenured archbishop of Midila and at the same time apostolic nuncio in the Central African Republic in Congo Brazzaville (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and in Chad. On 5 September 1987 he received the Episcopal ordination at the Vatican St. Peter’s Basilica by Giovanni Paolo II. During his mission in those Countries, protracted for five years, he travelled far and wide the territories in his charge. At that time, by the way, were established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Chad, where Papa Wojtyła went in 1990.

On 15 December 1992 he was sent to guide the pontifical representation of Cuba, in which he remained for six years. As apostolic nuncio, on January 1998, he welcomed Pope John Paul II who come to visit the Caribbean Isle. On 11 February 1999 he was transferred to Colombia, where he is apostolic nuncio for more than eight years, during which he visited all the ecclesiastic districts and supported the bishops of the Country to face the delicate social situation.

On May 2007 he was sent by the Latin American Episcopal Council (Celam) to take part in the fifth general conference of Aparecida, in Brazil.

On 13 October 2007 he was nominated president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy by Pope Benedict XVI, role that maintains for six years, until 21 September 2013, when he was designated by Pope Francis prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

He was created Cardinal Deacon of the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian by Pope Francis in the Consistory on 22 February 2014.

(Made by L’Osservatore Romano editorial staff, 22 February 2014)