The ambassador of Malaysia to the Holy See received the Knight Grand Cross of The Order of Pope Pius IX last month, a report said over the weekend.
Dato Westmoreland Edward Palon was among nine resident ambassadors who were conferred the award, according to a report on The Borneo Post.
“I’m surprised the post about my receiving the award went viral,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.
He said the awarding ceremony was held on March 24 on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis.
“The award was handed out by His Excellency Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, Sostituto of the Secretariat of State at the Vatican,” said the ambassador.
The Order of Pope Pius IX, also referred as the Pian Order, is a papal order of knighthood originally founded by Pope Pius IV in 1560. The awarding of the order fell into disuse and was re-instituted by Pope Pius IX as a continuation on June 17, 1847.
Westmoreland, a Bidayuh from Kampung Duras in Siburan, started his term as Malaysian ambassador to the Holy See on March 21, 2019. He is the second Malaysian ambassador to the Vatican after Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Bernard Giluk Dompok.
The 53-year-old envoy started his career as administrative and diplomatic officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996. He was consul general at the Consulate General of Malaysia in Melbourne, Australia, from 2015 until his appointment as ambassador to the Holy See.
He previously served as Malaysia’s Assistant Secretary (West Europe) from 1996 until 1999, Assistant Secretary (Information) from 1999 to 2000 and Second Secretary at the High Commission of Malaysia in the Republic of Singapore from 2000 to 2004.
He later served as First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia in the United Nations in New York from 2004 until 2007 and Principal Assistant Secretary (America) from 2007 until 2010.
He also served as Counselor at the Malaysian Embassy in Santiago, Chile, from 2010 to 2013 and director at the Asean-Malaysia National Secretariat from 2013 to 2015.
In 2020, he was among the recipients of the Panglima Setia Bintang Sarawak, which carries the title Dato.