Francis appoints first female secretary-general
Sr Raffaella, 52, is the first woman to be appointed as the number two official at the Vatican City State administration, a position that has traditionally been held by a bishop. She becomes the highest-ranking woman official in the Vatican.
Sr Rafaella’s role gives her a pivotal role in the governance of the city-state which includes the Vatican’s museums, police, department for health, post office and pharmacy. The city state’s health directorate took a leading role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic inside the Vatican, including a vaccination campaign and the introduction of vaccine passes.
Born in Rome, the new secretary-general is an expert in Catholic social teaching, with a particular focus on health care and since 2005 has worked as an official at the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
Vatican City, which covers 108 acres, generates significant revenues for the Holy See through visitors to the museums and the Sistine Chapel. It has a population of around 800 and has several thousand employees. While the ultimate superior is the Pope, the president of the city-state governorate is Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, who was appointed on October 1 2021, having previously served as the secretary-general.
The appointment of Sr Rafaella is the latest attempt by Francis to diversify the largely all-male leadership in the Vatican.