VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - French cardinal and former Vatican foreign minister Jean-Louis Tauran, who helped improve ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim world, has died aged 75, the Vatican said on Friday.
Tauran served as the Vatican’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2003 and in 2007 he was put in charge of the office that oversaw the Church’s relations with other faiths, including Islam.
Tauran was the man who announced to the world from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square that Francis had been elected pope on March 13, 2013.
He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for many years and died in the United States on Thursday.
Despite his illness, he remained head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to the end. In April he met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in Riyadh on the first visit to the kingdom by such a senior Catholic authority.
Tauran was well respected in the Muslim world, having helped heal the wounds opened among by Pope Benedict’s notorious Regensburg speech in September 2006, which appeared to link Islam and violence.
Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword, contrary to God’s nature.
As foreign minister, Tauran was one of the leaders of the Vatican’s opposition to the 2003 war in Iraq and irritated Washington more than once, denouncing the U.S.-led invasion as “a crime against peace”.
Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Robin Pomeroy