Pope names veteran diplomat as Vatican's No. 2

Mugshot
Archbishop Pietro Parolin

VATICAN CITY -- Although Pope Francis has not hesitated to break with convention during his brief pontificate, in appointing a seasoned member of the diplomatic corps as the top Vatican official, he resumed a long-standing tradition.

The pope appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a longtime official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state.

On Oct. 15, Archbishop Parolin will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, who came to the post in 2006 after serving as archbishop of Genoa, Italy.

The secretary of state is the pope's highest-ranking collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios, in their relations with Catholic communities in individual countries and with national governments.

For years, Archbishop Parolin led Vatican delegations to Vietnam each year to discuss church-state issues with the country's communist government, a process that eventually led Vietnam to accept a nonresident papal representative to the country. The move was widely seen as a step toward establishing full diplomatic relations.

While at the Vatican, Archbishop Parolin also represented the Vatican at a variety of international conferences on climate change, on human trafficking and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He led the Vatican delegation to the 2007 Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md.

At a news conference in 2006, Archbishop Parolin said Vatican nuncios and papal representatives play an important role "in defending the human being" and in strengthening local churches, especially in regions where Christians face poverty, discrimination or other hardships.

The Vatican's presence around the world through its nuncios shows people that the Church and the pope are always near, that Christians -- no matter how small their numbers -- are not alone in the world, he said.

In the current Vatican organizational framework, the secretary of state is responsible for ensuring that the pope's policies and priorities take concrete form in the work of Vatican offices. The secretary typically has been very close to the pope and meets with him often.

Archbishop Parolin was born Jan. 17, 1955, in Schiavon, Italy, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980. He studied at the Vatican diplomatic academy while earning a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1986, he began working at Vatican embassies, serving in Nigeria and in Mexico before moving to the offices of the Vatican Secretariat of State. He was named undersecretary for foreign relations in 2002.

No votes yet