Pope names top Vatican official from U.S. to be nuncio in South Africa

Vatican City — Pope Francis named Msgr. Peter B. Wells, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the next papal nuncio to South Africa and Botswana.

The longtime deputy chief of staff at the Vatican's Secretariat of State will be ordained archbishop. His appointment was announced Feb. 9 by the Vatican.

"I am extremely humbled and honored by the faith which has been placed in me by the church and our Holy Father, especially in this Year of Mercy," Wells said in a statement. "I ask for your prayers as I prepare to embark upon this mission to the extraordinary people of southern Africa."

Born in 1963, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1991 after studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He earned a bachelor's degree in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a license in theology from Rome's Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

After his ordination, he served as an assistant pastor at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, assistant chaplain at St. John Medical Center, associate chaplain at Bishop Kelley High School, a judge on the marriage tribunal, personal secretary to the bishop and vicar for religious education.

Returning to Rome, he earned degrees in canon law at the Gregorian University and graduated from the Pontifical Ecclesial Academy in Rome where he studied international law and papal diplomacy. He entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1999.

After working in the Vatican embassy in Nigeria, he started working at the Secretariat of State in 2002 and became head of the English-language desk in 2006.

In 2009, Wells, was named assessor for general affairs -- a top post in the Vatican Secretariat of State with responsibilities similar to that of a deputy chief of staff.

As assessor, he also headed the "Financial Security Committee" created by Pope Francis in 2013 to oversee transparency measures being carried out by Vatican offices and agencies.

As papal nuncio in South Africa and Botswana, he fills a post that has been vacant since May 2015 when the pope appointed Archbishop Mario Cassari nuncio to Malta.

Wells also speaks Italian, French, German and Spanish.

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