ROME – Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States,” is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
The pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around the world.
In his letter, the pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome,” both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
The pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
The pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well as of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.