Nigerian Catholic Archbishop Appointed Secretary of Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization

Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, appointed Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization. Credit: CNA Deutsch/EWTN

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu as Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, the Vatican section for the first evangelization and the new particular Churches that “serves the work of evangelization, so that Christ, the light of the nations, may be known and witnessed to by word and deed, and the Church, his mystical Body, may be built up.”

The appointment of the Nigerian-born Archbishop who has been serving as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva since his appointment in December 2021 was made public by the Holy See Press office on Wednesday, March 15.

Archbishop Nwachukwu also served at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and as the Holy See Representative at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Born in May 1960 in Umuokoro, Eziama-Ntigha, in Isia-Ala Ngwa North Local Government Area of Aba State, Archbishop Nwachukwu was ordained a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia in June 1984; he was incardinated in Aba Diocese in April 1990.

After his Priestly ordination, he worked as a teacher and later as Vice-rector of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, Umuahia, as well as Parochial Vicar and Administrator of St Anne’s Parish, Ibeku (1984-1986).


Archbishop Nwachukwu also served as the Diocesan Vocations Director, as well as Chaplain of the Federal College of Agriculture and the Umuahia Campus of Alvan Ikoku College of Education, both in Umudike-Umuahia.

He was enrolled in the diplomatic service of the Holy See on 1 July 1994 and was later deployed to Apostolic Nuntiatures including Ghana and Paraguay.

The Vatican diplomat is an alumnus of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome where he completed his doctoral studies in Canon Law in 1996.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, and assigned him the Titular Archbishop of Acquaviva.

He later served in the Antilles from 2017 as the Apostolic Nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, as well as to Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Guyana.

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Archbishop Nwachukwu also took on the role of Apostolic Nuncio to Saint Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Suriname, and Belize in 2018.

In an earlier interview with ACI Africa sister news service, Catholic News Agency (CNA) Deutsch, the Vatican diplomat emphasized the main role of Catholic Priests as “first and foremost bridge builders”.

“We are primarily Priests before being diplomats, and as Priests, we are bridge builders,” Archbishop Nwachukwu said during the 16 March 2022 interview with CNA Deutsch.

He made reference to his role as the Permanent Observer to the UN, and said, “We represent the Pope, and the Pope represents Christ; he is the successor of Peter, and Christ is presented as a High Priest.”

“The High Priest is a bridge builder; and that is our work as diplomats and as Priests. We are supposed to be first and foremost bridge builders carrying on with the mission of Jesus Christ, of building bridges between God and humanity,” said the Nigerian Catholic Archbishop.


He further said, “As Priests, as other Christs among our people, we are supposed to be Pontifical, and that is also what it means by representing the Pope, who is now the supreme pontiff.”

“We are supposed to be Pontifical in our mission, that is, we are supposed to be bridge builders. A diplomat is essentially a bridge builder,” the Nigerian-born Vatican diplomat told CNA Deutsch.

He went on to reflect on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying, “We are all praying for Ukraine, because the UN is a platform, it is a forum for dialogue and a meeting place for the parties involved in the conflicts, and also a meeting place of the allies of both parties involved in the conflict. We cannot reach durable peace, lasting peace without dialogue.”

“Peace that is imposed is only war that is postponed, while peace that is agreed, peace that is reached through dialogue, is lasting peace,” Archbishop Nwachukwu said.

His personal experience of the Biafra war (6 Jul 1967 – 15 Jan 1970) in his native country of Nigeria has enriched his diplomatic mission, he said during the 16 March 2022 interview. 

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“I was only seven years old when I was caught up in the midst of a civil conflict, one of the most horrible, horrendous civil conflicts of the last century. This was in 1967, the outbreak of the Nigeria Biafra Civil War,” the Catholic Archbishop said.

He added, “I lost two of my own sisters. So, I knew right from a very early age what it means to pass through a situation of war. I know what it means to experience hunger. I know what it means to be an internally displaced person. So, I know the experience of being a refugee.”

“I know the experience of living away from my home. I lost my father and mother for a long period. We were five and we were under my eldest brother, who was only 13. And we had to survive. So, I know what it means to go through suffering,” Archbishop Nwachukwu said.

He continued, “I lost years of education, three years from 1967 to 1970. And therefore, when I'm coming to the United Nations, I know what it means to experience war, not at the warfront, but as a victim, a victim that is innocent.”

His experience of the Biafra war has made him “know what it means to experience anger, illness without the presence of any medication,” he recounted, adding, “I know what it means to feel one has been abandoned by the rest of humanity. Or what it means to feel one has been discriminated against in one's own nation.”

“So, I bring all this baggage of experiences to my current work. When a person is going to talk to me about discrimination, about violence, about injustice, I think I've experienced them all in my own skin,” the Nigerian Vatican diplomat said.

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