Archbishop Pietro Parolin (CNS photo)
Today the Vatican announced that Archbishop Pietro Parolin,
nuncio to Venezuela and long-time Vatican diplomat, has been appointed as the
new Secretary of State. The 58-year-old Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone, who has held the position since 2006.
From 2002 to 2009, Archbishop Parolin, a native of Northern Italy, served in the
Secretariat of State as the Undersecretary for Relations with States, working
first under Cardinal Angelo Sodano and then under Sodano’s successor, Cardinal
The naming of the new Secretary of State is one of the most
significant moves of Pope Francis’ young papacy; while the position traditionally
heads up both internal curial affairs and international relations for the
Vatican, operating as the Vatican’s “prime minister,” the
announcement in April that the Holy Father had selected eight “super
cardinals” to advise him on Church governance raises questions about what
exactly the role of the Secretary of State will be under Pope Francis.
Writing yesterday as the rumors began to spread that
Parolin would be appointed, John
Allen described two things he believes the decision indicates about Francis’
intentions for reform at the Vatican:
First, it suggests
that though Francis is trying to engineer a reform in the Vatican, he doesn't
mean to start from scratch. Instead, Parolin would represent a sort of
"reboot" -- an effort to restore the Vatican's operating system to a
time when it was perceived to work effectively.
a consummate insider, yet one not associated with the most notorious breakdowns
in management that occurred on the watch of Benedict XVI's Secretary of State,
78-year-old Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
episodes included a 2009 controversy involving the lifting of the
excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop, as well as the Vatican leaks
scandal. Taken together, they stoked dissatisfaction among senior churchmen
around the world and helped set the stage for electing a Latin American
outsider to the papacy.
option for an Italian likewise would seem to confirm that Francis does not
intend to completely upend the Vatican's traditional culture.
another front, the choice also suggests Francis does not want the church's
diplomatic capacity to dim while he deals with internal challenges.
Parolin would become the church's primary spokesman on pressing international
concerns such as the current crises in both Syria and Egypt. He has background
in the region, among other things having represented the Vatican at the 2007
Annapolis Conference on the Middle East convened by the Bush administration.
Vatican Radio has the text of Archbishop
Parolin’s statement upon the announcement of his new position:
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.
I feel very strongly the grace of this call,
which is yet another and the latest of God’s surprises in my life. 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.
My thoughts go to my family and to all the
persons who have been part of my life: in the parishes into which I was born
and in which I served; in the dear Diocese of Vicenza; at Rome; in the
countries in which I have worked from Nigeria, to Mexico, and most recently
in Venezuela, which I am sorry to leave. I think also of Pope-emeritus Benedict
XVI, who ordained me bishop, I think of the Secretariat of State, which was my
home for many years, of His Eminence, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, of the other
Superiors, colleagues and collaborators and of the whole Roman Curia, as well
as of all those who represent the Holy Father and the Holy See diplomatically
around the world. I owe a great debt to all.
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 asked us at the beginning to walk, to build and to profess.
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
And, as they say in Venezuela, “Que Dios les
Caracas, August 31, 2013