Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (right) pose for photo with Vatican ambassador to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino during the farewell high tea ceremony at Wisma Putra. -NSTP/Luqman Hakim Zubir

PUTRAJAYA: Outgoing Holy See Ambassador to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino today urged Malaysians to continue respecting, accepting and loving those of different faiths.

“I have been asked before what will I miss the most about Malaysia, I have to say it is their people.

“Based on what I have seen and experienced, Malaysians are truly gracious, kind, gentle, warm, welcoming, embracing and always have a lovely smile,” he said, at his farewell high tea hosted by Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah today.

“I agree with Foreign Minister (Saifuddin) that we should go beyond respecting and accepting those of different faiths. There should be love too.”

The 66-year-old was appointed by Pope Benedict as the first Vatican ambassador to Malaysia in 2013.

During his stint, Archbishop Marino was elected dean of the Diplomatic Corps of Malaysia.

He saw to the building of a new Nunciature (Vatican Embassy), the Holy See’s first environmentally-friendly building.

He was also responsible for obtaining the title of minor basilica which was granted by the Holy See to the Church of St Anne in Penang.

Archbishop Marino was also instrumental in getting the Catholic Church in Malaysia its first cardinal in Anthony Soter Fernandez, the second archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

The archbishop also held the posts of apostolic nuncio (Vatican envoy) to Timor-Leste as well as apostolic delegate to Brunei.

He succeeded Archbishop Giampier Gloder, whom Pope Francis has appointed as Vatican ambassador to Cuba.

Archbishop Marino comes to his new post with considerable diplomatic experience in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, including 11 years of service in three Muslim-majority states and seven years working at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

He joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1988 and, subsequently, served in its embassies in the Philippines (1988-91), Uruguay (1991-94), Nigeria (1994-97) and the United Kingdom (2004-2008).

As the secretariat of state, he served as desk officer in the section for relations with states and was responsible for the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Moldova.

In 2008, Pope Benedict appointed him as Vatican ambassador to Bangladesh.