Pope Francis Names Coptic Priest Second Personal Secretary

Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid had been translating the Holy Father’s general audiences into Arabic.

Seal of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria
Seal of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

VATICAN  CITY — Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis.

The position is among the Pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position.

The vacancy filled by Msgr. Lahzi Gaid March 17 was created when Msgr. Alfred Xuereb was transferred from his position as Pope Francis’ personal secretary to being prelate secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Msgr. Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, who had been second to Msgr. Xuereb and is a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, is now first secretary to the Pope, and Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will assist him.

As second secretary, Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will aid the Holy Father in his daily life, with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondence in the Pope’s name.

Msgr. Lahzi Gaid currently serves in the Secretariat of State and is known for reading the Gospels and summarizing the Pope’s comments in Arabic at his general audiences. He has also served as translator for the Pope’s meetings with Arabic-speaking delegates, including at his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine.

He has lived for some time at the St. Martha guesthouse in the Vatican, according to Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider.

He was born in 1975 in Cairo and is one of eight siblings. In addition to his native Arabic, he speaks Italian, French and English.

He attended the Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo and the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, earning a doctorate in the canon law of the Eastern Churches.

Msgr. Lahzi Gaid has worked at the nunciatures to Congo, Gabon, Iraq and Jordan.

In 2011, following attacks against the Coptic Orthodox community in Alexandria, which killed 21 and injured eight, he wrote an open letter to the imam of Al Azhar University, who regarded Benedict XVI’s condemnation of the attacks as an interference.

He has also served in St. Domitilla parish in Latina, a city south of Rome.

Father Gianni Toni, pastor of St. Domitilla, has said that “when Father Yoannis was called by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, and was told of the Pope’s choice, Father Yoannis sent me a three-word text message: ‘Pray for me.’”

Father Toni said, “I believed that he had been appointed secretary of some nunciature.”

Andrea Gagliarducci is the Vatican observer for Catholic News Agency.