Pope Francis names American as new Vatican ambassador to Guinea Bissau

By Hannah Brockhaus

On Monday Pope Francis appointed U.S. Archbishop Michael W. Banach as Apostolic Nuncio to Guinea Bissau, marking the latest in a string of American nuncio appointments so far this year.

The announcement that Archbishop Banach, previously nuncio to several other countries, will now be overseeing the Holy See’s relations with Guinea Bissau came in an Aug. 22 communique from the Vatican.

Designated Titular Archbishop of Memphis in 2013, Archbishop Banach was named nuncio to Senegal and apostolic delegate to Mauritania March 19, and as nuncio to Cape Verde July 9. He will continue to hold these positions in addition to his new appointment as nuncio to Guinea Bissau, all of which sit along the Northwest coast of Africa.

Born in Worcester, Mass. and ordained a priest for the diocese in July 1988, Archbishop Banach, 53, was originally made a Vatican ambassador in 2013 when he was named apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

His transfer to the four West African nations this year comes amid a string of other appointments by Pope Francis of U.S. Vatican diplomats to the African continent.

In February, the Pope appointed Msgr. Peter Bryan Wells, the highest ranking American in the Vatican Secretariat of State, as both archbishop and his new ambassador to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. In July he was also appointed nuncio to Swaziland.

Aside from the move of Wells and Banach, in March Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Paul Russell, at the time the head of the Vatican nunciature in Taiwan, as nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan – an important post given recent tensions between Turkey and the Holy See over Pope Francis’ use of the term “genocide” during a 2015 Mass commemorating the Armenian martyrs, as well as his recent visit to the country.

While there aren’t too many Vatican ambassadors from the U.S., most of them seem to be making their way to the world’s peripheries.

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