Gabriel Montalvo, 76; Colombian Was Archbishop, Envoy

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gabriel Montalvo, 76, a Colombian archbishop and longtime Vatican envoy to trouble spots who retired last year as ambassador to the United States, died of lung cancer Wednesday at a hospice in Rome.

Montalvo entered the papal state’s diplomatic service in 1957 and specialized in church relations with Communist governments in Eastern Europe. He served in a series of ambassadorial assignments to such tumultuous places as Nicaragua, Libya and Serbia.

In 1993, he was appointed president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, where Vatican diplomats are trained. He held the job five years, then Pope John Paul II named him apostolic nuncio to the United States.

In his final ambassadorial job, Montalvo ordained bishops and acted as the pope’s eyes and ears on matters of church importance, including the U.S. clerical sex-abuse scandal.


Gabriel Montalvo Higuera was born Jan. 27, 1930, in Bogota and ordained a priest in 1953.

He retired at the mandatory age of 75.

Despite the length of his American posting, he was a little-known public figure in the United States, mostly because he shunned media attention.