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Pope Francis
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Pope Francis says goodbye to youngest ambassador to the Holy See


The youngest ambassador accredited to the Holy See bid farewell to the Eternal City. He's now 40, but arrived at the age of 36. Perhaps it's his youth that made Costa Rica's Fernando Sanchez one of the most active diplomats in Rome.

One of his last official acts was saying goodbye to Pope Francis, who thanked him and gave him a special gift.

Ambassador of Costa Rica
"He talked to me right away about Costa Rica, he told me: 'Costa Ricans are now well known,' because of the World Cup. I gave him a jersey of the national team, which read Pope Francis. He was very happy. In the end, my son, who's always been fascinated with the papal hat, brought one for him and they switched. I couldn't ask for anything better.”

Sanchez' son is used to the attention. He gave Benedict XVI flowers when his father presented his letter of credentials in 2010.

Two weeks after after this first meeting, the Pope mentioned Costa Rica twice during the 2010 Christmas Urbi et Orbi message. 

Urbi et Orbi 2010
"May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters... May it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.”

He spent less than four years in Rome. But during that time he coordinated three visits by his country's president to the Vatican, even though Benedict XVI dedicated less time to meeting heads of state in his later years.

An ambassador's goals include making his country's presence known. Today, the Vatican's lone parish has a chapel dedicated to the patroness of Costa Rica, Our Lady of the Angels.

He also brokered a partnership between Costa Rica and the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, a Vatican's hospital founded by Father Pio.

The outgoing ambassador said his successor could finalize pending agreements with the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Library, and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

His send off also included a Mass, presided by Card. Antonio Cañizares. Naturally, it took place in the same parish that houses the chapel dedicated to Costa Rica's patroness.

Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship
"At the end of your service, Fernando, you may leave happy. You sought to serve your country and the Church, to serve God. May He help you, may Our Lady of the Angels protect you and your family, and the beloved nation of Costa Rica.”

Sanchez' term coincided with several decisive moments at the Vatican and the world. They included the resignation of Benedict XVI, and the first year of Pope Francis' historic pontificate. 

- PR