(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday welcomed to the Vatican Nepal’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Ramesh Prasad Khanal, and 5 others. At a formal ceremony in the Vatican, all 6 ambassadors presented their credentials to the Pope at the start of their diplomatic mission with the Holy See. The other ambassadors are from Mauritania, Trinidad e Tobago, Sudan, Kazakhstan and Niger. The Nepalese Ambassador to Germany, residing in Berlin, is the accredited non-residential Ambassador to the Holy See.
Pope Francis delivered a common address to the 6 ambassadors
The Holy See and the Kingdom of Nepal established diplomatic relations on 10 September, 1983 and on 7 October 1983, the Holy See erected the Mission sui Iuris of Nepal, meaning ‘in its own right’ or an independent mission. Prior to that, Nepal’s Catholics were under the jurisdiction of the Indian Diocese of Patna. Fr. Anthony Francis Sharma, the first native Jesuit, was appointed the first Ecclesiastical Superior of Nepal and he was installed on 8th December 1984. The following year, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan presented his credentials to the Nepalese King as the Holy See’s first Pro-nuncio to the kingdom. Currently, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro is the non-residential Apostolic Nuncio or Holy See’s ambassador to India and Nepal, residing at the Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi.
The Holy See raised the Mission Sui Iuris to the rank of Prefecture Apostolic on 8 November, 1996, with Msgr. Sharma as the first Prefect Apostolic of Nepal. As the Church grew in the Himalayan nation, it was raised to the rank of Vicariate Apostolic with Msgr. Sharma becoming its first Vicar Apostolic. He was consecrated bishop at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral on 5 May, 2007, thus becoming Nepal’s first bishop.
After Bishop Sharma retired on 25th April, 2014, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Paul Simick, a priest of the Indian Diocese of Darjeeling, the Vicar Apostolic of Nepal. Bishop Sharma passed away on 8 Dec 2015, at the age of 77. Pope Francis on 25 April, 2014. However, Nepal is a fully-fledged diocese as yet.
Once the world’s only Hindu state, Nepal ceased to be so following a declaration by the Parliament in 2006. Over 81% of its some 26.5 million population is Hindu, followed by Buddhists (9%), while Christians are a tiny minority of 1.4%. According to estimates by the Catholic charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN), Catholics number around 8,000 faithful. Protestant communities, notably the Evangelical and Pentecostal groups have a strong presence.
Khanal, Nepal’s new ambassador to the Holy See is a 55-year old diplomat. The father of two children has diplomas in journalism and Japanese language, and has also has done specialized studies in security. He is law graduate and has also a Master’s degree in political science.
Khanal has held the following posts:
* Under-secretary of the Department for Europe-America, and South, South-East and North Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1988-1994)
* Second and later First Secretary at the Nepali Embassy in China (1994-1998)
* Under-secretary of the Departmant of Protocol and of international organizations and the United Nations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1998-2001)
* First Secretary at Nepal’s Embassy in Saudi Arabia (2001-2004)
* Counsellor and later Minister Counsellor at the Nepal’s embassy in Bangladesh (2005-2009)
* Under Secretary of the Multilateral Economic Affairs Division and of Passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009-2010)
* Minister Counsellor at Nepal’s Embassy in Israel (2010-2013)
* Director General of the Department of Passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2013-2014)
* Chief of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2015-2016)