Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, who will be made a cardinal Feb. 22, said in a recent interview he is “deeply identified” with Pope Francis’ style of governance.
“The Secretariat of State … must assume a cordial and complete availability to the pastoral conversion proposed by Pope Francis,” Archbishop Parolin told Stefania Falasca of Avvenire, the daily of the Italian bishops’ conference, in an interview published Feb. 8.
“Indeed, it must become, in a certain sense, a model for the whole Church,” he added.
The Vatican’s state department, he said, should “shine in a particularly intense way, in the persons who compose it and the activities it performs” with the three qualities Pope Francis identified in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia: “professionalism, service, and holiness of life.”
Archbishop Parolin is back in Rome after spending four years as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela. But he knows well the Roman Curia, having served in the Secretariat of State for almost 20 years.
He was born in northern Italy in 1955 to a daily Mass-attending father who managed a hardware store and sold agricultural machinery; his mother was an elementary school teacher. His father died when Pietro was 10, of a car accident.
As a boy, Archbishop Parolin was an altar boy, and his priestly vocation was fostered by his pastor, Fr. Augusto Fornasa.
In 1969 he entered seminary, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Vicenza in 1980, where he served two years as a parochial vicar.
Archbishop Parolin was then sent to study canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and then in 1983 was transferred into the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains members of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
In 1986 he completed his canon law degree, and began his diplomatic service: first at the nunciature to Nigeria, then Mexico, where he contributed to talks which led to the juridical acknowledgement of the Church there, and the opening of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mexico.
Archbishop Parolin was recalled to Rome in 1992 to work at the state secretariat, handling the dossiers of Spain and Indonesia, as well as relations with Italy.
In 2002, Archbishop Parolin was appointed undersecretary for the relations with states, and charged with the dossiers on Israel, Vietnam, and China.
Vatican relations with Vietnam and China improved under his tenure: Benedict XVI sent a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, and Archbishop Parolin twice visited Beijing to lead a Vatican delegation in talk with Chinese officials on the situation of Catholics in the country.
He was appointed apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 2009, and was consecrated a bishop.
In his Avvenire interview, he indicated that diplomacy is an “instrument at the service of the Church’s mission,” in relation to religious freedom and world peace. In a pluralistic world Vatican diplomacy must “accompany men and peoples to help them realize that their differences are an asset and a resource,” helping them to “construct a human and fraternal world, in which there is room for everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.”
Archbishop Parolin is among 19 men who will be given the red hat of a cardinal at the Vatican later this month. He is one of three who join the cardinalate by virtue of their office in the Roman Curia.