OTTAWA, Ontario - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Msgr. Jose Bettencourt, a native of Portugal who grew up in Ottawa, as the Holy See's head of protocol.

Msgr. Bettencourt is only the second non-Italian to hold the position. The post had been held by Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwa, a Nigerian diplomat, who was named Nov. 12 as apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua.

"We are very proud of him and the honor the Holy Father has conferred on him in calling him to this charge," Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa said.

"He values his ties with his local church of Ottawa though his duties only permit a short stay at Christmas and a longer break over the summer months," the archbishop said. "He is invariably pleased to receive Canadians when I refer people to him and is kind to a fault."

In his position Msgr. Bettencourt is in charge of the protocol involving the Holy See's relationships with other states, from welcoming visiting heads of state at the airport to dealings with diplomats and ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.

His role includes overseeing how heads of state and others participate in ceremonies such as canonizations and consistories and ensuring that visitors to the Vatican are welcomed and relaxed.

Before his appointment, Msgr. Bettencourt worked closely in organizing papal audiences, briefing the pope and visiting bishops, heads of state and lay people for the visits.

He has served in the Vatican's Secretariat of State since 2002.

Born in 1962 in Velas, Azores, Portugal, Msgr. Bettencourt grew up in Ottawa, where he attended both elementary and secondary school. He graduated from the University of Ottawa before pursuing theological studies at Dominican College and St. Paul University, where he studied for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1993.

Published in Canada