Pope taps first lay person as head of a Vatican department

Pope taps first lay person as head of a Vatican department

Pope taps first lay person as head of a Vatican department

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican dicastery for communications. (Credit: CNA/Public domain.)

Pope Francis has named a layman to head the Vatican’s troubled communications office, the first layman to head a dicastery of the Roman Curia.

ROME – Pope Francis has named a layman to head the Vatican’s troubled communications office, the first layman to head a dicastery of the Roman Curia.

The Dicastery for Communications — until recently Secretariat for Communications — saw its former head, Monsignor Dario Viganò, resign after a scandal involving a private letter from Pope Benedict XVI which he revealed only in parts, concerning a series of books on Pope Francis’s theology. He left out the criticisms made by the pope emeritus of a particular theologian involved in the books.

The man tapped for the task is Italian Paolo Ruffini, who until his new appointment had been working as the director of TV2000, the network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

According to his resume, provided by the Vatican, Ruffini was born in 1956 and he’s been a professional journalist since 1979. His previous experiences include Italian newspapers, including Rome’s Il Messaggero, Italian radio shows, and also two major Italian TV networks, before moving on to the bishops’ channel in 2014.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication oversees the Church’s media operation, including L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and Vatican News, which resulted from the merger of what used to be the Vatican’s Television Center and Vatican Radio. In total, over 500 people are employed by this dicastery, which also oversees the press office headed by American Greg Burke.

Speaking with news agency Reuters in late June, the pope said that there had been a woman considered among the candidates for the job, but she reportedly wasn’t “available because she had other commitments.”

Viganò had resigned in March of this year, in a letter addressed to Francis, which was later released by the Vatican. He cited recent “controversies” surrounding his duties, with the scandal “destabilizing” the reform of Vatican communications, to which Viganò was entrusted in 2015.

RELATED: Vatican communications head resigns over Benedict XVI letter scandal

He had come under fire for releasing only portions of the text of a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI during the launch of a new Vatican-published compilation of books about Francis’s theological and philosophical background that was released to mark his fifth anniversary as pope.

The Secretariat for Communication released a digitally altered photo of Benedict’s letter which blurred the portion of the page where the pope emeritus said he did not read the works and could not write a commentary due to other commitments.

Viganò said in his letter to the pope that he didn’t want the issue to cause any “delay, damage or even block” the reorganization of the Vatican’s communications, which he said is entering its final phases.

In a Mar. 21 letter accepting Viganò’s resignation, Francis insisted the reform would continue, specifically mentioning the upcoming integration of the Vatican printing office and L’Osservatore Romano within the larger communications apparatus.

Following Vigano’s resignation, Francis had appointed Argentine Monsignor Lucio Adrián Ruiz, former secretary of the department, as an interim prefect. The pontiff had also asked Viganò to remain in the dicastery in an “advisory role.” No indication has been given regarding his position going foward.

At this point, Ruiz continues as the number two in the dicastery.

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