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Throwback: Speech of Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, First Apostolic Nuncio the Philippines

In 1900, Archbishop Placido Chapelle became the first of six Apostolic Delegates to the Philippines. When the Philippines became a republic, the Apostolic Delegation was raised to the status of Nunciature during the presidency of Elpidio Quirino.

It was on April 8, 1951, under President Elpidio Quirino, that the Holy See and the Philippines signed their first treaty establishing ties, which thereby raised the Holy See’s Apostolic Delegation to the Philippines to the status of Apostolic Nunciature.

The following day, April 9, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, becoming the very first Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. (Archbishop Vagnozzi became Cardinal in 1967).

On June 20, 1951, he was received at Malacañan Palace by President Elipidio Quirino for the presentation of his credentials.

Here is the speech of Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of the Philippines, on the occasion of the presentation of his credentials, and the response of President Elpidio Quirino, President of the Philippines, given at Malacañan Palace, on June 20, 1951.


as published in the Official Gazette of the Philippines

Your Excellency:

I have the honor to present to Your Excellency the letters, by which His Holiness Pope Pius XII has been pleased to accredit me as Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of the Philippines.

In accomplishing this solemn and historical event, I am overcome by mixed feelings: my unworthiness for this exalted and responsible position, and my happiness at being able to serve my Sovereign Pontiff and to promote the friendliest relations between the Holy See and the Philippine Government in this noble Christian Nation.

It is very significant that diplomatic relations have been established on the highest level, with the appointment of an Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines and of an Ambassador to the Holy See. On one hand this is a fit recognition of the position of the Holy See in international affairs, as well as of the fact that a large majority of the Filipino people see in the Roman Pontiff their Supreme Spiritual Father; on the other hand, it shows the importance which the Holy See attaches to the Republic of the Philippines.

As a free and independent nation, this country is still young. Like all things endowed with the gift of youth, it is progressively growing in all its accomplishments, and gives a very rich promise-of things to come.

In the almost two years I have been fortunate enough to spend in this country as Apostolic Delegate, I have been happy to witness this growth and progress, and may I again express to Your Excellency, on this solemn occasion my utmost confidence in the future of this archipelago. Knowing as I do the innate virtue of the Filipino people, their religious faith, their wonderful family traditions, their profound love for the freedom and independence of their country, I feel sure that, with the help of God, this young Republic will overcome its internal difficulties; difficulties, which, today, confront more or less all the nations of the world, great and small, old and young; and that it will also overcome the serious threats from abroad;

While in these times the principles and ideals of the democratic nations are threatened by the disruptive forces of atheistic materialism, I solemnly pledge to Your Excellency that the Catholic Church in the Philippines, following the mandate of its Shepherd, will make every possible effort and give its full cooperation in the defence and promotion of what is dearest to the hearts of the Filipino people; their freedom and independence.

On my part, I wish to rededicate myself, with all my energies and to the best of my ability, to the task of making the Catholic organization in this country an even more effective force for the progress and welfare of the Filipino people.

I am certain that in the accomplishment of my mission I will always be able to count on the sympathetic understanding and help of Your Excellency, and of your Government.

I wish to repeat, in this my first pronouncement as Apostolic Nuncio, the wish and the prayer of His Holiness the Pope, that Almighty God may bless Your Excellency’s person and Your Excellency’s leadership, the members and officials of your Government, as well as all the citizens of this noble republic.

Response of President Elpidio Quirino

It gives me great pleasure to receive you as the first Papal Nuncio of His Holiness the Pope to the Philippines. By sending as a representative a highly qualified person possessed of noble ideals, rich background of many successful years of varied service for the Holy See and one who has already ministered to the spiritual needs of the Filipino people, His Holiness has demonstrated his warm affections for my country.

This event marks another significant milestone in the many centuries of close association between the Philippines and the Holy Church of Rome, an indication that my country has indeed gone a long way from that time, when nearly 400 years ago, the Philippines began its development as a Christian nation. This spiritual awakening of the Filipinos pushed them forward into the unique position of being the only Christian nation in the Far East, and while other Eastern peoples were still slumbering in colonial apathy, the Filipino people had already voiced their desire and readiness to be independent. Thus they eventually became the first nation among the colonial peoples of the East to gain freedom. We fully realize that this most precious possession of ours could not have been attained were it not for the fact that the Christian religion in a large measure prepared us to assume the responsibilities and duties of an independent nation. For that we shall be eternally grateful.

The responsibilities of statehood and the weakening of moral values as a result of enemy occupation pose very grave problems, but the Filipino people are supremely confident that they will surmount all obstacles for they derive spiritual strength from an abiding faith in Christian principles. Amidst therefore the present confusion of conflicting beliefs, the Philippines in its pursuit of the welfare and happiness of its people has a clear path to follow, to deal with all peoples fairly and honestly.

Your Excellency, you are not a stranger to us and I am sure that in your new capacity as Papal Nuncio you will find the Philippine Government, its officials, and the Filipino people most cooperative in making your stay in this country both pleasant and successful in strengthening the close ties which bind the Filipinos to the Holy See. You have my assurance that every assistance will be available to you in the interest of understanding and harmony between our two states.

Please convey my thanks to His Holiness, Pius XII, for his solicitude for the Philippines and the Filipino people and their best wishes as well as mine for His continued good health and happiness.

Pope Pius XII received President Elpidio Quirino, Victoria Quirino, Ambassador to the Holy See former Chief Justice Manuel Moran, Jose Yulo, Nenita Moran Garcia and their group at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside Rome, on October 9, 1951. Photo taken from The Presidential Museum and Library. Elpidio Quirino: The Judgment of History by Salvador P. Lopez.


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