VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, who has reportedly been ill, will arrive in Rome Nov. 16 to assume his post, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state emeritus, announced Nov. 12.
Cardinal Bertone stated, “(I) had a phone call with my successor, Archbishop Parolin, who will take his post next Saturday.”
The former secretary of state’s comment came at the conclusion of a presentation of his new book, published in Italian, called Papal Diplomacy in a Globalized World. The book is a selection of his diplomatic interventions whilst secretary of state, a post he held from 2006 until Oct. 15 of this year.
It was announced on Aug. 31 that Archbishop Parolin would be replacing Cardinal Bertone as secretary of state. He was appointed Oct. 15, but he was unable to take part in the ceremony by which he formally assumed his new position because he needed to undergo an urgent — though not grave — surgery, according to what Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said during a media briefing that day.
Prior to his appointment as secretary of state, Archbishop Parolin had been apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, a post he held since 2009.
It is understood that Archbishop Parolin, who is 58, has now fully recovered from his Oct. 15 surgery.
Since that day, no medical updates have been provided about the health condition of the archbishop, purportedly to respect his right to privacy.
At first, Vatican sources spoke about a surgery for appendicitis, though other sources explained that Archbishop Parolin suffered from gallstones. Yet none of these rumors had been confirmed.
After that, it was rumored that Archbishop Parolin was ready to return to Rome and had fixed appointments for the week of Oct. 27. But Father Lombardi dismissed these rumors in an informal media briefing held Oct. 25.
At that time, Father Lombardi reported that the archbishop’s surgery had taken place but would be followed by a convalescing period, without describing the surgery or specifying the length of time for recuperation.
According to several Vatican sources who asked for anonymity, Archbishop Parolin had spent some time in Rome in the week before Oct. 15.
Following that, he went back to his hometown of Schiavon, about an hour outside Venice. While there, he went to the emergency room due to a stomachache, where the doctor, supposing he had appendicitis, planned his Oct. 15 surgery.
On further investigation, the sources report, the physician discovered that Archbishop Parolin had cancer in his liver, and he was sent to a hospital in Padua.
According to a Vatican source who spoke to CNA Nov. 12 under condition of anonymity, the cancer was not so grave as to require a transplant of the organ.
Archbishop Parolin underwent a surgery in which the part of the liver affected by cancer was removed, and then he remained in Padua to recover.
According to sources, no chemotherapy is needed, and Archbishop Parolin has just needed to undergo frequent medical checks.
On Nov. 11, the Vatican had announced that the secretary of state sent a telegram on behalf of Pope Francis to the Filipino president, expressing the Holy Father’s solidarity with those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
A Vatican delegation, which would usually be headed by the secretary of state, will, on Nov. 14, go to the Quirinale, the official residence of the Italian president.
The visit will consist of a twofold dialogue: between Pope Francis and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and between Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and his Vatican counterparts, a delegation normally headed by the secretary of state.
In a media briefing held Nov. 12, the Quirinal Palace’s press officer maintained that the Vatican has yet to communicate to Napolitano’s office who will head its delegation.
The press officer asserted that it is probable the Holy See is waiting until the last minute to see if Archbishop Parolin will be able to head the delegation.
Given Cardinal Bertone’s announcement that the secretary of state will not be in Rome until Nov. 16, it has been suggested that the delegation will in fact be led by Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Secretariat of State’s substitute for general affairs.