All that said, Americans are going to miss Wells terribly in Rome.

As papal biographer and Catholic intellectual George Weigel put it to Crux on Tuesday, “He’s a very good priest and both South Africa and Botswana will be well-served by his ministry.

But it’s also obvious that his departure will leave a very big American deficit at the senior levels of the Curia.” Now 52, Wells was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and studied at both Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and the Gregorian University in Rome before being ordained in 1991.

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During that time, several things became clear: First, Wells has a facility with languages; second, he’s got a sharp mind and picks things up fast; and third, he’s got a stunning work ethic and the capacity to manage several complex projects at once.

On that basis, he was recruited into the Vatican’s diplomatic service.

He put in a stint in Nigeria and then was recalled to Rome to work in the first section of the Secretariat of State, the department that deals with general Church affairs — meaning, pretty much, whatever’s bubbling at the moment. To take a banal example, when a Chicago lawyer wanted to donate the Internet domain name “popefrancis.com” to the new pontiff, in 2013 he contacted then-Cardinal Francis George, who in turn called Wells.

9, 2016, on their calendars, because as of that date, the Vatican suddenly has become a much more difficult place for them to navigate.

Capping a long period of speculation, the Vatican announced Tuesday that American Monsignor Peter Wells, who has served in the Secretariat of State since 2002 and as assessor, or the No.

3 official, since 2009, has been named the new papal ambassador to South Africa and Botswana.The appointment means that Wells has been raised to the rank of archbishop.At one level, the move is clearly a promotion for Wells, who climbs the ranks of the hierarchy and becomes the Vatican’s point man in one of the most important nations on the continent where Catholicism is experiencing its greatest growth, and where many observers believe its future is being forged.The Catholic bishops of Africa are entering a period of greater political and diplomatic assertiveness, working, among other things, toward observer status at the African Union, and Wells is well-equipped to support that effort.They’re also becoming more assertive inside the Church, having played lead roles in each of the last two Synods of Bishops on the family, and Wells will be positioned to develop important lines of communication between the Africans and Rome.He’ll also help shape the next generation of African Catholic leaders by grooming future bishops.