After studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he began his diplomatic service which took him to Peru, the Philippines, and Senegal. He was Called back to the Vatican Secretary of State, and later he was sent to Britain.
On 27 July 1985 he was appointed Pro-Nuncio Apostolic in Papua New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands, being at the same time elevated to the archiepiscopal dignity with the title of Eclano.
On 21 October 1989 he was nominated pro-nuncio to the states of Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Mali, becoming apostolic nuncio in December 1994. At the same time he was Apostolic Delegate in Mauritania.
On 2 October 1997 he was nominated Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon and Kuwait and Apostolic Delegate to the Arabian Peninsula; in 1999 he will resign as nuncio to Kuwait.
On 11 April 2001 he was appointed secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
On 28 February 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, succeeding Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed him cardinal of the deaconry of San Cesareo in Palatio in the consistory of 18 February 2012.
He is a member in:
• Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
• Pontifical Council for the Laity.
• Pontifical Committee of the Presidency.
• Council for the Family of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.