Archbishop Baldelli, 73, succeeds Baltimore-native Cardinal James Francis Stafford, 76, who submitted his resignation after having reached the age limit.
Cardinal Stafford has served as the penitentiary major since 2003. Before that he was most notably the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1996-2003 and the archbishop of Denver from 1986-1996.
As the archbishop of Denver, he welcomed Pope John Paul II to the city in 1993 when it hosted the 8th World Youth Day.
Fortunato Baldelli was born in Valfabbrica, Italy in 1935. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino in 1961.
He was ordained an archbishop in 1983 and named apostolic delegate in Angola. Two years later he was named apostolic pro-nuncio in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Since 1991, Archbishop Baldelli has served as the apostolic nuncio in the Dominican Republic, Peru and France.