Pope Benedict XVI made the latest in a series of important changes within the Roman Curia today by appointing Msgr. Pietro Parolin as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela. The appointment has been speculated by Vatican commentators for some time.
Msgr. Parolin, originally from Schiavon in northern Italy, has been the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister since 2002 (officially titled under secretary in the Secretariat of State’s Relations with States section).
During that time he has built up a very good reputation as a diplomatic fixer, playing an important behind-the-scenes role in negotiating improved relations with a number of states, most notably China, Vietnam and Israel.
Vatican sources say he is being sent to Venezuela to help improve worsening relations between President Hugo Chavez and the Holy See. Msgr. Parolin will be consecrated as bishop by Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 12, along with other recently appointed apostolic nuncios.
Msgr. Parolin has been replaced as deputy foreign minister by 42-year-old Msgr. Ettore Balestrero from Genoa. A genial Vatican diplomat who is popular among orthodox Catholics, Msgr. Balestrero has until now been responsible for overseeing the Holy See’s relations with Europe and, in particular, the Church’s role in an increasingly secular continent.
As well as being assigned to important “dossiers” such as China, Vietnam and the Middle East, Msgr. Balestrero’s task will be to oversee the work of the office of Relations with States and maintain contacts with ambassadors around the world. Msgr. Balestrero has an American mother and speaks fluent English as well as French, Spanish, German and Dutch.
The appointments today come after other recent changes within the senior ranks of the Secretariat of State. Last month Msgr. Peter Wells, an American from Tulsa, was tapped as assessor of general affairs — essentially the Holy See’s chief of staff.