Friday, December 07, 2012

Maestro Georg – B16 Taps Secretary to Run the House

In a move of massive significance which'll be seen as either a doubling-down on the clout of B16's longtime private secretary – or his being distanced from the daily minutiae of the Papal Apartment in the wake of the "Vatileaks" fiasco – at Roman Noon, the Pope named Msgr Georg Gänswein, his closest aide from well before his 2005 election, as prefect of the Papal Household. 

With the nod, the 56 year-old native of Germany's Black Forest was simultaneously elevated to the rank of archbishop. (The Pope and now-Prefect are shown above in a May shot from B16's Study.)

Ordained a priest of Freiburg in 1986 and trained as a canonist, Gänswein joined the staff of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a decade later, becoming the now-pontiff's personal aide in 2001 in succession to Bishop Josef Clemens – now #2 at the Pontifical Council for the Laity – a figure with whom Gänswein has long been alleged to have a bitter rivalry. 

Within days of his boss' election as Pope – and the sudden ubiquity that came with it – the cleric's looks earned him the moniker of the Vatican's "George Clooney" and a raft of global press coverage, all of which which sparked an even further degree of resentment behind the walls.

Of course, Archbishop-elect Georg succeeds now-Cardinal James Harvey, the Milwaukee native who formally ran the Pope's affairs since 1998 and was appointed archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls on receiving the red hat at last month's Consistory.

In official terms, the prefect is responsible for arranging all papal audiences – public and private, regardless of their size or rank of visitor(s) – as well as handling the logistics for every major Vatican event and the pontiff's travels both in Rome and all of Italy. 

Beyond a doubt, this morning's appointment will raise an inevitable raft of comparisons to the 1998 appointment of Gänswein's predecessor – Stanislaw Dziwisz, arguably the most powerful papal secretary of modern times – as an unprecedented "adjunct prefect" of the Papal House, named alongside Harvey. (Neither of the duo, however, were raised to the rank of archbishop until five years later, in the wake of John Paul II's last Consistory.) 

While, by longstanding Vatican custom, papal secretaries are accredited and report to the Secretariat of State, the prior move was intended to give Dziwisz – now his Blessed Pope's successor as cardinal-archbishop of Krakow – added room to maneuver with a free hand in the Apostolic Palace.

This time, though, the new arrangement could prove tricky on at least some fronts; as the pontiff is traditionally accompanied by both the prefect of the House and his secretary during audiences, that'd mean Don Georg would somehow have to bilocate to fill both the usual seats that flank the Man in White. 

Along those lines, at first glance, it appears that the papal secretary will somehow aim to fill both slots – the Holy See's release on the appointment initially contains no reference to the archbishop-elect's current role, while Gänswein's biography curiously offers no verb-tense in describing him as "Particular Secretary" to the pontiff. Put simply, the construct can be seen a subtle, yet no less clear indication that – at least, for now – "Bel Giorgio" will continue on in his existing slot alongside the new one.

While no ordination date has been publicly disclosed, smart money says Benedict himself will "hat" his right-hand man on Epiphany Day, January 6th, when the Pope is already scheduled to say Mass in St Peter's.

At the end of their respective terms in the post, each of Gänswein's three predecessors – Jacques Martin, Dino Monduzzi, and now Harvey – were elevated to the College of Cardinals.