Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Woman's Place: Atop the Curia

Over the summer of 2007, B16's second-in-command pledged a Roman Curia with more women in senior posts.

It took this long, but finally, they made a start earlier today.

With Cardinal Peter Turkson freshly arrived in Rome to take up his work as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, this morning the Pope named Dr Flaminia Giovanelli, a longtime staffer at the dicastery, as its undersecretary, the third-ranking post.

As CNS notes, the slot had been open since April 2006, when then-Msgr Frank Dewane was sent back to the States as coadjutor of Venice in Florida. (A Wisconsin native, Dewane became head of the Gulf Coast diocese in early 2007.)

An expert on "the politics of development and work" who's held advisory posts at a host of global bodies, the new undersecretary, 61, becomes one of just three non-ordained officials to hold "superior" rank in the current Curia: the other two are Sr Enrica Rosanna, who broke the glass ceiling of the top-level offices when John Paul II named her undersecretary of the "Congregation for Religious" in 2004, and Dr Angelo Scelzo, the longtime #3 at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who's held his post since 2000. An Australian laywoman, Rosemary Goldie, first broke the barrier, serving as undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1966-76.

(It likewise bears noting that the head of the Holy See's Internet Office is an American-born religious, Long Island native Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Judith Zoebelein.)

The nod adds to a lead lineup at Iustitia et Pax that was already worth watching; alongside Turkson -- the much-touted African papabile of the moment, who was named to head it in October, B16 tapped one of his lead advisers in the drafting of his social encyclical, now Bishop Mario Toso SDB, as its #2 in the late fall. (Significantly, Toso is a Salesian confrere of Benedict's all-powerful Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.)

As other Curial chairs go, reportedly tipped for the spring is the moment's most awaited shift: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re's retirement from the helm of the Congregation for Bishops. Head of the "Thursday Table" that votes to recommend episcopal appointees to the pontiff since 2000, Re turns 76 at month's end.

Several other dicastery chiefs are likewise past the retirement age: Christian Unity czar Cardinal Walter Kasper turns 77 in March, and the lead overseer of Religious Cardinal Franc Rodé CM turned 75 last fall, as did Cardinals Claudio Hummes (Clergy), Paul Josef Cordes (Cor Unum), and Giovanni Lajolo (Governor of the Vatican City-State).

Oh, and Bertone turned 75 in early December, too... but the lack of chatter surrounding the milestone just served to reinforce the conventional wisdom -- that is, he ain't going anywhere, at least not anytime soon.

Speaking of matters Curial, Saturday will see the Vatican's traditional observance of the feast of St Francis deSales -- the patron of writers and journalists (and, indeed, of the deaf, too) -- and, with it, the annual release of the papal message for the church's World Communications Day, this year's dedicated to the pastoral ministry of priests "in a digital world."

PHOTO: Getty