The Holy See's first envoy to South Africa after the collapse of apartheid, Archbishop Ambrose De Paoli, has died.
The Vatican and South Africa established diplomatic relations in 1994 after the dismantling of apartheid, and Archbishop De Paoli became the Vatican nuncio to the country.
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported that the 73-year-old Archbishop - who was the nuncio to Australia - had been diagnosed with leukaemia in March 2005.
"Despite the treatments he underwent, he was physically very debilitated in the last few weeks" and doctors recommended that he return to the Archdiocese of Miami, where he was incardinated, it said.
The newspaper said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, sent Archbishop De Paoli a message in late August, assuring the archbishop of his prayers and those of Pope Benedict XVI, "asking the Lord to grant him serenity, comfort and strength."
The archbishop sent a brief message to the Vatican October 6, "expressing his devotion and his gratitude to the Holy Father," the newspaper said.
Born August 19, 1934, in USA, he was ordained to the priesthood for the then-Diocese of Miami in 1960. After completing a degree in canon law, he entered the Vatican's diplomatic corps in 1966.
He served in Vatican embassies in Zambia, Venezuela and Canada before working in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Ordained a bishop in 1983, he served as the Vatican's chief representative in Sri Lanka, then as the Vatican representative in Southern Africa, in Lesotho and in Swaziland.