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Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo

I wanted to be a pastor, not a nuncio

Voices Jul 10, 2017

Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo obtained a doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontifical Academy for Ecclesiastical Nobles in Rome. He did not enjoy life in Rome and would have preferred to return to his beloved Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons)

Msgr. Lope Gallo continues his series on the eight priests who forged his priesthood.

This week, Pope Pius XII (1939-1958).

After getting my doctorate in moral theology in Rome, I returned to Mexico. My parents met me at the airport but I noticed my mom was very nervous. She told me that the papal nuncio had called for me several times and needed to see me at once. A nuncio’s call to a priest always causes some trepidation.

The next day I went to the nunciature where Msgr. Luigi Raimondi, the representative of Pius XII, welcomed me and showed me a letter from Msgr. Giovanni Montini, Substitute for Ordinary Affairs, saying that the Pope wanted me to enter the Pontifical Academy for Ecclesiastical Nobles.

I was in shock! I was dreaming of returning for good to my beloved country. To my surprise, my family was radiant with joy – “You will be the first diplomat from Mexico! Good luck!” they shouted.

This would be my third departure to Europe. I was not happy, but accepted the order.

This would be my third departure to Europe. I was not happy, but accepted the order. The academy was founded by Pope Clement XI in 1701 and its aim was to prepare young priests to serve as diplomatic employees of the Holy See after they obtain a doctorate in canon law.

Canon law is the body of ecclesiastical rules imposed by the authority of the Catholic Church in matters of faith, morals, and discipline. The nature of the Church as a visible society existing in the world demands that there be a formal legal structure guiding the faithful to the attainment of a common goal.

From the beginning of the third century, local Christian communities possessed adequate machinery for their government wherever they were established. There were factors that assured coordination among communities and promoted unity.

The consecration of a bishop by neighbouring bishops, the episcopal assemblies, the exchange of episcopal letters, and especially the Emperor Constantine’s edict that proclaimed “To be Christian is legal” (313 AD) created a need to have a code that would confirm the need of a corpus legis.

With the support of imperial power, a juridical society was formed and a regulatory system began to be observed regarding matrimonial legislation, justice, excommunication, rituals regarding worship, etc.

The Academy is housed in a very elegant building. Sixty years ago, its president was Msgr. Paolo Savino, Prelate of Naples. He told me to register at the University of Lateran and get a master’s degree in both canon and Roman law. My companions were already laureates, working in the Secretariat of State, and over time they lived in many countries as representatives of the Vatican.

Cardinals Andrea de Montezemolo and Agostino Cacciavillan, are now “Emeriti,” retired at the Vatican after many foreign postings in the diplomatic residences of the Holy See.

Pius XII was called Pastor Angelicus (Angelical Pastor) and few popes possessed his dignity and splendour.  

My mom, my brother Raul, and his wife and son were with me at my first private audience with Pope Pius XII. He was admirable. He spoke perfect Spanish and showed interest in the history of my family. Pius XII was called Pastor Angelicus (Angelical Pastor) and few popes possessed his dignity and splendour.

But I was unhappy with the protocol and high style of living at the Academy. I wanted to leave Rome and return to Mexico, but my friend Agostino told me I was being absolutely ridiculous. He suggested that I consult Cardinal Eugene Tisserant and express my difficulties.

Cardinal Tisserant was the Dean of the Cardinals, a kind of vice-pope, especially after the Pontifical States were taken over by the Italian government. I followed his advice and went to visit the Cardinal. The meeting was cordial and gave me a lot of hope.

“What is your problem?” he asked. I answered: “Your Eminence, I am not happy in the Academy. My future in the different nunciatures of the world will feel like a prison – luxury residences maybe, but golden boxes. And my best years will be without contact with the faithful, with no pastoral activities.

“Perhaps, after 40 years I will be a nuncio, but where? In some remote country? I am not a saint. I cannot live in isolation. I know an old nuncio who has never had a parish. I would like to be a parish priest, have a Catholic school, visit the sick ...”

The Cardinal was attentive, but silent. He let me finish my lamentations and then said he would call me. I went back to the Academy, assured that the Cardinal would find a way for me to go home or provide another solution, and finally I would be happy with my priestly life.

Some months later, he called me: “If you want, you can work at the Appeal Tribunal of the Roman Rota, but you must finish your doctorate in canon law.”

I was at peace, and full of joy to be working near my beloved Pius XII.