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 long-time official in the Vatican secretariat of state and nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, to be his secretary of state.
On Oct. 15, 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. He coordinates the work of the entire Roman Curia, oversees the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinates the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervises the work of the Vatican diplomatic corps.
For years, Parolin led Vatican delegations to Vietnam each year to talk with the country's communist government, a process that led Vietnam to accept a non-resident papal representative to the country.
While at the Vatican, Parolin also represented the Vatican at a variety of international conferences on climate change, on human trafficking and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The secretary of state is responsible for ensuring that the pope's policies and priorities are implemented in the work of Vatican offices.
Many observers have suggested the secretary's role could change as part of a wider reform of the curia.
Because the office's responsibilities are so broad, Bertone was often blamed by critics when things went wrong during Pope Benedict's pontificate.
A day after the announcement of his replacement, Bertone defended his record, telling journalists that "I see these seven years as positive on balance," but also acknowledging "many problems, especially in the last two years."
In an apparent reference to the "VatiLeaks" of confidential documents that pointed to corruption and mismanagement inside the Holy See, Bertone blamed a "tangle of crows and vipers" for "throwing accusations at me."
In 1986, Parolin 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.