A new Secretary of State has been appointed by Pope Francis, and here a biographical sketch is given of Archbishop Parolin.
On August 31, 2013, the pope appointed his Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin (in the picture), currently apostolic nuncio to Venezuela. On October 15 this career diplomat, who served as Under-secretary for Relations with States from 2002 to 2009, will succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, aged 78, who has occupied the post since September 2006.
Ordained a priest in 1980, Archbishop Parolin entered in 1983 the Pontifical Ecclesiastic Academy, which trains the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See. Upon completing his studies he was stationed in Nigeria from 1986 to 1989, then in Mexico until 1992, before being assigned to the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. He was then responsible for relations with Spain, Andorra, Italy and the Republic of St-Marin. John Paul II appointed him to the post of Under-secretary for Relations with States in November 2002. This student of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (1914-1998) worked on all the sensitive dossiers, including those pertaining to relations between the Holy See and Israel, Vietnam, and even China.
After a little less than seven years serving two Secretaries of State, Angelo Sodano then Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI appointed him apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 2009. In Caracas his commission was marked especially by tensions between the Venezuelan episcopate and President Hugo Chavez.
According to Jean-Marie Guenois in the August 31 issue of Le Figaro, Archbishop Parolin:
will have to manage a profound change in the mentality and work methods [within the Curia], while transforming the very office of Secretary of State, which is to be considered less a pyramidal, screening authority that distances the pope from his cardinals and ministers, and instead more a place of exchange for a more collegial government of the Church along the lines of a chancery, which it was at one time."
According to one Roman observer, the role of Secretary of State should be less central as a result. And it is no accident of scheduling that Archbishop Parolin is supposed to assume his duties on October 15, two weeks after the meeting in Rome of the 8 cardinals whom Pope Francis has asked to prepare the reform of the Roman Curia.
At the end of the pontificate of John Paul II (1978-2005) and then throughout the reign of Benedict XVI (2005-2013), the role of Secretary of State was particularly important, to the point of eliciting criticism by those in charge of other dicasteries. Some of them deplored the excessively restricted access to the Supreme Pontiff—a regret that Pope Francis must have taken into consideration in his plan for reforming the Curia.
On September 1, Cardinal Bertone responded to criticisms of his inadequate government:
Of course there were many problems, particularly those of the last two years [an allusion perhaps to the Vatileaks affair and the issue of the Institute for Works of Religion—Ed.], and certain accusations have been made about me… a combination of crows and vipers, but that should not darken what I see as a positive achievement on balance."
For now, he retains his office as camerlengo [chamberlain], an important job in case of apostolic succession, and he can expect to become Dean of the College of Cardinals.
(Sources: news.va/Apic/Imedia/Figaro—DICI no. 281, 9-13-2013)
More related news from DICI: The Two Sections of the Secretariat of State