A new Vatican secretary of state

A new Vatican secretary of state

Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the new Vatican secretary of state

As expected, Pope Francis today named Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his new secretary of state. The move is important primarily because it brings diplomacy front and center to a position that for the last seven years was held by a non-diplomat.

Archbishop Parolin, 58, is known around the Vatican as super-skilled in foreign affairs, having served in Vatican embassies (called nunciatures) in Mexico, Nigeria and, most recently, in Venezuela as apostolic nuncio. He is a graduate of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican’s diplomatic school, where students are hand-picked.

From 2002 to 2009, Parolin worked at the Secretariat of State’s headquarters at the Vatican, serving as the undersecretary for relations with states, a kind of deputy foreign minister. Although not a high-profile job, it was one of the most important at the Vatican; among other things, he was assigned to help untie diplomatic knots in China, Vietnam and Israel.

When U.S. Embassy personnel needed to discuss important diplomatic affairs with the Vatican, more often than not they went to see Parolin. That included some less-than-agreeable meetings when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, a move sharply criticized by the Vatican.

Parolin was also helpful to journalists covering the Vatican – on background, of course. He could brief reporters on just about any global issue in about five minutes, and he seemed to understand that the media’s accuracy improved when it had more information. He was known as a realist and a pragmatist.

Parolin replaces Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, a man who was Pope Benedict’s number two at the doctrinal congregation and who came to the Secretariat of State with zero diplomatic training. Many hold Bertone responsible for the series of missteps, miscommunications and leaks that marred Benedict’s final years in office.

Bertone, in the eyes of his critics, acted more as czar than diplomat-in-chief, in part because traditionally the secretary of state has coordinated the work of the Roman Curia and internal church affairs as well as foreign affairs. The big question mark that remains after today’s announcement is whether Pope Francis intends to maintain that dual role, or whether the position could be redefined and refocused in the Curia reform envisioned by the new pope.

Here is the Vatican's announcement, followed by a brief statement by Archbishop Parolin, who takes office Oct. 15:


The Holy Father has accepted, in keeping with Can. 354 of the Code of Canon Law, the resignation of His Eminence, Card. Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, asking him, however, to remain in office until 15 October, 2013, with all the faculties proper to the office.

At the same time, the Holy Father has nominated Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela, as the new Secretary of State. He shall take possession of his office on 15 October, 2013.

On that occasion, His Holiness shall receive in audience Superiors and Officials of the Secretariat of State, in order publically to thank Cardinal Bertone for his faithful and generous service to the Holy See, and to introduce them to the new Secretary of State.


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 them 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 has asked us from 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 forward.”

And, as they say in Venezuela, “¡Que Dios les bendiga!”.

Caracas, 31 agosto 2013

8 comments (Add your own)

1. Pat wrote:
May this be the continuation of needed reform. I pray that the Holy Spirit continue to lead Pope Francis in his wonderful and surprising steps to bring the Church back to being centered in following the message of our Christ and Scripture. Thanks be to God!

Sat, August 31, 2013 @ 10:37 AM

2. Francis K. Ward (Rev) wrote:
It is the Lord who appoints people into his vineyard to accomplish and fulfil a particular need at a point in time, and the appointment of Archbishop Pietro Parolin as the new Secretary of State is not just by chance but in the plan of God. May the Lord who has appointed him to this very office grant him the necessary grace to help build the church.

Sat, August 31, 2013 @ 2:12 PM

3. Yae wrote:
I will be praying with you and for you too, Archbishop Parolin. May you in the service of the Church and trusted by our Holy Father Francis, give glory to the Lord by your faithful example. Congratulations! Viva Cristo Rey!

Sat, August 31, 2013 @ 4:38 PM

4. Otilia A. Marina wrote:
BIENVENIDO ARCHBISHOP PAROLIN! May God's grace abound in you as you take on this
post for the good of the people of God and for God's glory.

Sat, August 31, 2013 @ 7:11 PM

5. John Michael wrote:
May the Holy Spirit grant Archbishop Pietro Parolin the gift of Wisdom in the performance of his duties as Vatican secretary of state.

Sat, August 31, 2013 @ 7:32 PM

6. mortimerzilch wrote:
Peter The Roman. Petrus Romano. there you go... waiting in the wings, like you could've seen it coming. I think he will get to be the next Pope, even before Benedict XVI dies. that's what I think. So, we should be grateful that God is taking care of His flock, just like He has promised, as always Faithful to His Eternal Word...but at the same time, we should be more fearful of even more violent and pervasive persecution that what the Church is suffering now. and it is violent and very widespread now...but it promises to get much worse. we should try to be very close to Mary in this time. as close as possible.

Sun, September 1, 2013 @ 7:41 AM

7. Fr. Michael Nsubuga in Uganda Hoima Diocese Kigumba Parish wrote:
Wish the new Secretary of State a humble Start.

Sun, September 1, 2013 @ 10:33 AM

8. Ursula wrote:
This is the fairest, most charitable, and unbiased report that I have read thusfar on this new appointment to Secretary of State. And thank you for publishing the Vatican announcement with the article. It amazes me how this announcement produced such a wide variety of reports , mostly negative to Cardinal Bertone, from this announcement by the Vatican, who is 78 and has done his best(as far as I can tell) in a very difficult position. At 78 being replaced by a new pope is not called being 'fired' as one article stated! What? Is he supposed to work until he is 90? He is already past the age of retirement. Amongst so many articles on this new appointment that smell heavily of agendas and ripe with disrespect, I THANK YOU, Mr Thavis, for your professional and fair reporting . It is a breath of fresh air. Thank You, Cardinal Bertone, for your service and your loyalty to the Church. Welcome Archbishop Parolin and congratulations on your new appointment! You will be in my prayers.

Tue, September 3, 2013 @ 5:39 PM

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