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Catholic World News News Feature

New theologian appointed for papal household December 01, 2005

Father Wojciech Giertych, a Polish Dominican, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI as theologian to the pontifical household.

Born in London to Polish parents in 1951, Father Giertych entered the Dominican order in 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1981. He obtained a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum in Rome, where he now teaches moral theology. He speaks Polish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian.

Father Giertych replaces Cardinal Georges Cottier, who will retire at the age of 83. Cardinal Cottier was appointed theologian of the pontifical household by Pope John Paul II in 1989. (Technically he has been "pro-theologian" since 2003, when Pope John Paul raised him to the College of Cardinals, since Church protocol does not allow a cardinal to serve in a staff position.)

The theologian to the pontifical household has the task of providing the Pontiff with advice on theological issues, and checking all papal texts to ensure that ideas are conveyed with clarity. In practice-- particularly when working with a theologian as accomplished as Pope Benedict-- the staff theologian helps with citations and references, and serves as a sounding board for the Pope's theological ideas. Since the Middle Ages, the post has been held by Dominicans.

The nomination of Father Giertych is the second significant appointment by Pope Benedict involved theological affairs. In May he appointed Archbishop William Levada as his own replacement at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy Father has moved slowly to make changes in Vatican leadership posts, leaving journalists to speculate about other likely changes in the Roman Curia.

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