Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican diplomat and expert in interfaith relations who announced the election of Pope Francis to the world in 2013 with the famous phrase “habemus papam (we have a pope),” has died.
The Vatican said Tauran died Thursday at age 75. He had been in the United States, seeking treatment for Parkinson’s disease. He had the condition for years but continued his globe-trotting diplomacy to improve the Vatican’s relations with the Muslim world.
In an unusually personal condolence message sent to Tauran’s sister Friday, Francis praised the cardinal’s “courageous” years of service to the Catholic Church “despite the weight of illness.”
Francis said the French-born Tauran was a “counselor who was listened to and appreciated,” particularly in predominantly Muslim parts of the world. It was a reference to Tauran’s tireless efforts to mend fences after Pope Benedict XVI gave a 2006 speech about Islam and violence that offended many Muslims.
Tauran, who was born in Bordeaux, served in various Vatican embassies before being named chief Vatican archivist, foreign minister and then prefect of the Vatican office of interfaith relations. He made headlines in 2002 when he fiercely opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, calling it “a defeat for all humanity.”
As “protodeacon” of the College of Cardinals, Tauran emerged on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on the rainy night of March 13, 2013, to announce Francis’ election. Shaking from the effects of Parkinson’s, Tauran pronounced the Latin words with a strong, clear voice and revealed to the world that the Catholic Church had its first pope named Francis.
Francis later appointed Tauran as camerlengo, the symbolically important official who runs the Vatican during the period between the death or resignation of one pope and the election of another.
In his condolence note, Francis said he named Tauran to the position “because of his service to and love for the church.”
Other condolences came from the World Jewish Congress, which praised Tauran’s efforts to build “bridges of understanding, tolerance and mutual respect” among Catholics, Jews and Muslims.
“Cardinal Tauran truly lived the message that he preached, demonstrating absolute faith in humanity’s ability to coexist and thrive together, denouncing radicalism and ignorance while embracing people of all faiths and backgrounds,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said.