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Pope Francis appoints new Secretary of State

Catholic World News - August 31, 2013

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, as his new Secretary of State.

While accepting the resignation of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is 78, the Pope asked Cardinal Bertone to remain in his position until October 15 “with all the faculties proper to the office,” according to the Holy See Press Office. During that time Archbishop Parolin will be able to move from Caracas to Rome.

On October 15, the press office added, “His Holiness shall receive in audience superiors and officials of the Secretariat of State, in order publicly to thank Cardinal Bertone for his faithful and generous service to the Holy See, and to introduce them to the new Secretary of State.”

Acting effectively as “prime minister” for the Roman Pontiff, the Secretary of State is the second-ranking official at the Vatican, with broad authority over the internal actions and diplomatic policies of the Holy See. Exercising profound influence over the life of the Church, the Secretaries of State of the last four decades have included Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot (1969-79), Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (1979-90), Cardinal Angelo Sodano (1991-2006), and Cardinal Bertone (2006-13). Cardinal Sodano, who is now 85, remains the Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Archbishop Parolin was born in 1955 in Schiavon, a town of 2,500 in the northeastern Italian province of Vicenza, to a hardware store manager and an elementary school teacher, according to a report by La Stampa’s Vatican Insider. His father died in an automobile accident when he was 10, and the future prelate entered the seminary at age 14.

He was ordained in 1980 as a priest of the Diocese of Vicenza and earned a degree in canon law. Entering the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1986, he served in nunciatures in Nigeria and Mexico and worked at the Vatican in the office of the Secretariat of State.

From 2002 until 2009, the prelate served as Undersecretary for Relations with States, the second-highest position in the section of the Secretariat of State with purview over foreign affairs. In 2009, Pope Benedict appointed him apostolic nuncio to Venezuela and ordained him and four other Vatican officials as bishops at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“At this moment, in which my appointment as Secretary of State is made public, I desire to express deep and affectionate gratitude to the Holy Father, Francis, for the unmerited trust he is showing me, and to make known to him once again my willingness and complete availability to work with him and under his guidance for the greater glory of God, the good of the Holy Church, and the progress and peace of humanity, that humanity might find reasons to live and to hope,” Archbishop Parolin said in a statement.

“I feel very strongly the grace of this call, which is yet another and the latest of God’s surprises in my life,” he continued. “Above all, I feel the full weight of the responsibility placed upon me: this call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission, before which my powers are weak and my abilities poor. For this reason, I entrust myself to the merciful love of the Lord, from whom nothing and no one can ever separate me, and to the prayers of all. I thank all those who have shown and who, starting now, will show me understanding, as well as for any and all manner of help that anyone might desire to offer me in my new undertaking.”

“It is with trepidation that I place myself in this new service to the Gospel, to the Church and to Pope Francis, but also with trust and serenity – disposed – as the Holy Father has asked us from the beginning – to walk, to build and to profess,” he added.

Citing Pope Francis’s homily at his Mass with the cardinal electors in March, Archbishop Parolin continued, “May our Lady, whom I like to invoke under her titles as Our Lady of Monte Berico, Guadalupe and Coromoto, give us ‘the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.’”

The Holy See Press Office also announced that Pope Francis has decided that Cardinal Bertone’s four chief aides will all remain in their offices. Since 2011, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu has served as Substitute for General Affairs – in essence, the chief of staff responsible for the internal work of the Roman Curia. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti has served as the Secretary for Relations with States, or Vatican foreign minister, since 2006.

Archbishop Becciu’s chief assistant, Msgr. Peter Wells, will remain as Assessor for General Affairs, and Archbishop Mamberti’s chief assistant, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, will remain Undersecretary for Relations with States.

In addition, the press office announced that the Pope has confirmed Archbishop Georg Gänswein in his position as Prefect of the Pontifical Household, a position he has held since December 2012. Archbishop Gänswein served as personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, and continues to work with the retired Pontiff.

As the top-ranking official on the Pope's staff, Archbishop Parolin will undoubtedly be raised to the rank of cardinal at the next consistory. However, his authority as Secretary of State may not match that of his predecessors, if Pope Francis chooses to change the functions of the Secretariat of State as part of his program for reform at the Vatican.

Also still to be determined is the future role of Cardinal Bertone. He remains, for now, the chairman of a panel created by the Pope to supervise the Vatican bank; he is also the camerlengo, who would handle some administrative duties in case of the Pope's death. His predecessor as Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, still wields considerable influence at the Vatican.

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