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Catholic Culture Resources

Catholic World News News Feature

New personnel shifts expected at Vatican August 03, 2009

Andrea Tornielli, who has scored a series of journalistic coups recently in his capacity as the Vatican specialist for the Italian daily Il Giornale, is now predicting new changes in two of the offices concerned with the foreign relations of the Holy See: the Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Tornielli reports that Msgr. Pietro Parolin, the deputy secretary for relations with states, will soon be given a new assignment as apostolic nuncio in Venezuela. He will assume the rank of archbishop with his new duties. The appointment would already have been announced, Tornielli reports, except that the Vatican is waiting for official approval from the Venezuelan government. It is now likely to be announced at the end of the summer, the Italian journalist writes.

Since 2002, Msgr. Parolin has been the chief assistant to the Secretary for Relations with States. That office, the Vatican's equivalent of a foreign minister, has been held during that period by Archbishops Jean-Louis Tauran and Giovanni Lajolo-- both of whom are now cardinals-- and is now held by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. As their deputy, Msgr. Parolin has handled delicate diplomatic negotiations. He has, for example, led a series of Vatican delegations to Hanoi for talks with the government of Vietnam. His posting to Caracas will give him new diplomatic challenges, since the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez has engaged in a protracted war of words with the country's bishops. Indeed the tensions between the hierarchy and the Chavez regime might explain the government's delay in granting approval for the new nuncio, if Tornielli's story is accurate.

Tornielli also reports that Cardinal Renato Martino, the outspoken president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will soon be replaced-- again, probably after the August lull in Vatican activity. Cardinal Martino was permanent observer for the Holy See at the UN from 1986 until 2002, when he took his current post. His replacement is overdue, since the Italian cardinal is now approaching his 77th birthday. (The normative retirement age for bishops is 75.) With the publication of the papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which was supervised by his office, Cardinal Martino has completed his last major assignment at the Pontifical Council.

The replacement for Cardinal Martino, Tornielli writes, is likely to be an African prelate. Earlier this summer, Roman rumors pointed to Archbishop Robert Sarah, the former Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, who is now secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization. But Tornielli says that the new favorite is Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, who was raised to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

These new assignments, it should be emphasized, are only being predicted on Andrea Tornielli's blog; nothing has been announced by the Vatican. But in recent months the Giornale reporter has compiled an admirable record for predicting Vatican personnel shifts correctly.

Amid speculation of a continued shake-up within the Secretariat of State, Tornielli has not commented on one interesting rumor. Some Vatican-watchers believe that Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, will soon leave that position. His replacement, according to some sources, will be none other than: Andrea Tornielli.