For the first time in history, the pope has named a woman to serve as a manager at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State — tabbing Francesca Di Giovanni, a 27-year law professional in the Catholic Church, for the post.
Pope Francis announced her appointment Wednesday as under-secretary for the Section of Relations with States.
Di Giovanni has worked in the multilateral sector and focused on migrant and refugee matters in the office, and specializes in international humanitarian law, communications, private international law, intellectual property and tourism.
The move is in line with Pope Francis’ prior comments favoring a greater role for women at the Vatican. Di Giovanni said she was surprised by the announcement.
“For several years now we have been thinking about the need for an under-secretary for the multilateral sector: A delicate and demanding sector that needs special attention, because it has its own procedures, in some ways different from those of the bilateral sphere,” she said.
“But I sincerely never would have thought the Holy Father would have entrusted this role to me. … I will try to do my best to live up to [his] trust.”
Di Giovanni, who began working at the Vatican in 1993, is the first woman to hold a management position in the Secretariat of State, which is the central governing arm of the Catholic Church.
The pope’s appointment means there are now two under-secretaries in the Section for Relations with States — Di Giovanni and Monsignor Mirosław Wachowski.
“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” she said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues, as well.”