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Pope's personal secretary raised to archbishop, prefect of pontifical household

Catholic World News - December 07, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has raised his personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, to the rank of archbishop, and made him the prefect of the pontifical household.

The 56-year-old German prelate has worked closely with the Pontiff since 1995, when he was appointed to the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He will remain personal secretary to the Holy Father while assuming full control over the pontifical household.

As prefect of the pontifical household, Archbishop Gänswein succeeds Cardinal James Harvey, the American-born prelate who was elevated to the College of Cardinals in November, and appointed archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.

The appointment is an unprecedented honor for a personal secretary to the Roman Pontiff, and a strong show of the Pope’s confidence in his longtime aide, after a time when the papal staff was shaken by the “Vatileaks” scandal.

In 1998, Blessed John Paul II named his own longtime personal secretary, Msgr. Stanislao Dziwisz, as a bishop, and gave him the title of “adjunct” prefect of the pontifical household. But then-Bishop Harvey retained responsibility for the duties of the prefect, such as arranging papal audiences. Five years later, the late Pontiff raised both Bishops Harvey and Dziwisz to the status of archbishops. (Archbishop Dziwisz was named Archbishop of Krakow by Pope Benedict in 2006, and raised to the College of Cardinals later that same year.) Archbishop Gänswein will now have sole responsibility for the affairs of the pontifical household.

Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa observes that the appointment establishes Archbishop Gänswein as the sole “gatekeeper” controlling access to the Holy Father, and ensures that the younger German prelate, as an archbishop, will retain some influence even after the Pontiff’s death.

By appointing his secretary an archbishop and giving him a tough task within the Curia’s organisational chart, the Pope has created a protective shield around his collaborator for the future. He has also strengthened him significantly by making him the main interface in Pope-Curia relations and with the outside world.

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