Pope Francis has a chosen Sr Raffaella Petrini as secretary general of the body which runs Vatican City State.
By her appointment, Pope Francis has taken another step towards gender equality.
Sr Raffaella Petrini, 52, is the first woman to be appointed as the number two official at the Vatican City State administration, a position that has traditionally been held by a bishop.
The appointment of the 52-year-old nun, as AFP reports, is comparable to being deputy governor of a state or deputy mayor of a city. The Governatorate, based in a large palace in the middle of Vatican City, oversees more than 2,000 employees.
Sr Rafaella’s role gives her a pivotal role in the governance of the city-state which includes the Vatican’s museums, police, department for health, post office and pharmacy.
Born in Rome, the new secretary general is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. She is an expert in Catholic social teaching, with a particular focus on health care and since 2005 has worked as an official at the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
She has lectured in social sciences at the Angelicum (the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas) in Rome. The appointment of Sr Rafaella is the latest attempt by Francis to diversify the largely all-male leadership in the Vatican.
In February, the Pope appointed Sister Nathalie Becquart as the first female under-secretary at the Synod of Bishops’ office, also a post normally held by a bishop, and which opens the way for her to vote at a future synod of bishops gatherings.
Several months later, he chose Sister Alessandra Smerilli as the interim secretary at the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which made her the first woman to hold a number two position in the Roman Curia.
Over the years Francis has appointed a number of women to positions of authority at the Vatican. All of them have been firsts for women taking over roles traditionally held by Bishops or priests.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: Vatican News)