Pope Francis on Saturday appointed longtime diplomat Pietro Parolin as the Vatican’s new secretary of state, seeking in one move to quell factionalism inside the Holy See while bracing for negotiations with China and other foreign states over church freedom.
Monsignor Parolin, 58, was serving as the papal representative in Venezuela, and has worked on delicate cases including Mexico, Nigeria and China in his career.
Described as humble and inclined to the pastoral rather than doctrinal work of the Roman Catholic Church, he replaces Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the post.
Cardinal Bertone was appointed in 2006 by Pope Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, who chose to retire earlier this year. The two had both held top jobs at the Vatican body in charge of doctrinal orthodoxy.
Cardinal Bertone was a central figure in the opaque, rumor-stoked power struggle that led to Benedict’s unusual resignation.
Cardinal Bertone has resigned but Pope Francis has asked that he stay in office until Oct. 15, the Vatican said.
Msgr. Parolin, only the third secretary of state since 1991, is a veteran of diplomacy, having participated for years in high-level negotiations between states, both regarding the Holy See and nuclear weapons, and climate change treaties.
“This call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission, before which my powers are weak and my abilities poor,” Msgr. Parolin, the son of an elementary-school teacher near Vicenza, said in a statement sent from Caracas.