Pope Francis has named Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin as the new Vatican Secretary of State. The 58-year old Vatican-trained diplomat has previously served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela during a difficult period in the history of that country. “It is with trepidation that I place myself in this new service to the Gospel, to the Church and to Pope Francis," Archbishop Parolin said in a statement released yesterday by the Holy See Press Office. "I feel very strongly the grace of this call, which is yet another and the latest of God’s surprises in my life," declared the Archbishop. "Above all, I feel the full weight of the responsibility placed upon me: this call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission, before which my powers are weak and my abilities poor. For this reason, I entrust myself to the merciful love of the Lord, from whom nothing and no one can ever separate me, and to the prayers of all."
The appointment of Archbishop Parolin to the second-highest post in the Roman Curia comes as the crisis in Syria continues to mount. The Catholic Bishop of Aleppo said last week that he believed that foreign intervention in Syria could lead to a world war. The Holy Father today called for a world-wide day of prayer and fasting for peace, especially in war-ravaged Syria. During today's Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis announced a vigil for peace throughout the universal Church this Saturday evening, which is the Vigil of the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming,” the Holy Father said. “For this reason, brothers and sisters, I have decided to call for a vigil for the whole Church, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the Middle East, and throughout the world.”
“I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!”