· Biography of the newly-appointed Secretary of State ·
Pietro Parolin was born on 17 January 1955 in Schiavon, in the Province and Diocese of Vicenza. Brought up in a simple and deeply Catholic family — his father had a hardware store and sold farm equipment, his mother was an elementary school teacher — he attended the village parish from an early age. He found a spiritual point of reference in his pastor Fr Augusto Fornara who was to help guide his faith, and in particular to his priestly vocation that was developing in those early years. The tragic loss of his father, who died in a road accident in 1965, marked his childhood and that of his sister and brother, who was only eight months old at the time.
At the age of 14 he entered the seminary of Vicenza. Having received a classical education, he continued his study of philosophy and theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on 27 April 1980 by Bishop Arnoldo Onisto and was incardinated into the Diocese of Vicenza. For two years he was assistant pastor at Holy Trinity Parish, in the city of Schio. He was then sent to Rome where he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1983 he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and in 1986 he obtained a degree in canon law at the Gregorian with a thesis on the Synod of Bishops.
He entered the Diplomatic Service of the Holy See on 1 July 1986. He worked in the diplomatic mission in Nigeria (1986-89) and in Mexico (1989-92), and then, until 2002, in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. In May 1993 he accompanied Cardinal Roger Etchegaray on his mission to Rwanda and met religious and civil authorities in order to convey the closeness of Pope John Paul II to the people, victims of the civil war. He was also a member of the delegation led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, that participated in 19th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations dedicated to the environment and development in June 1997. Since 2000 he has worked with Bishop Attilio Nicora on matters pertaining to the implementation of the revision of the Lateran Concordat of 1984, with particular reference to the military ordinariate and to religious assistance in prisons and hospitals.
On 30 November 2002 John Paul II appointed him Undersecretary of the Section of the Secretariat of State for Relations with States, an office he held for nearly seven years. In this capacity he intervened in various international fora, testifying especially to the Holy See's concern for peace and human rights. On 4 September 2003 he took the floor in Vienna during the third conference on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (ctbt) to launch an appeal for the “responsible, honest and consistent” cooperation of all the members of the community of nations with a view to definitive and total disarmament. This appeal was renewed at the 50th Session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea) — of which the Holy See was a founding member in 1957 — held on 18 September 2006 in the Austrian capital. On this occasion he called for the full application of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (npt) which had come into force in 1970.
On several occasions he has been the spokesman of the Apostolic See expressing its wish to work with international organizations to safeguard the basic rights of the person, including religious freedom which was the subject of his address on 2 December 2003 in Maastricht, at the 11th Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (osce). He recalled that respect for every religious creed and the full exercise of the right to profess it “make a crucial contributing to combating intolerance and ethnic and racial prejudice”. In that same venue he underlined the need for “greater integration” between ethnic groups and cultures in today's society. He also firmly denounced human trafficking, which he described as a “shameful manifestation of slavery”, asking for closer international collaboration in order to face the tragic phenomenon. In those years attention to the problems of global development and to the need to redefine economic and social priorities on environmental protection which was the focus of the intervention made in New York on 24 September 2007 at a meeting in the context of the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. He affirmed on that occasion that “States have “a shared responsibility to protect the world’s climate” to ensure that “present and future generations be able to live in a healthy and safe environment”.
Particularly expert in matters concerning the Middle East and more generally the geo-political situation of the Asian continent, he has worked specifically to build up and reinforce relations between the Holy See and Vietnam: he was a member of the delegations of the Holy See that visited the country in April and May 2004, March 2007 and February 2009 — when the joint work group on bilateral diplomatic relations met for the first time — and in June and July 2005 he led several work sessions at the Vatican with a delegation of the Vietnamese Government’s Commission for Religious Affairs that was visiting the Holy See. He also contributed to relaunching dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, convinced of the need for a shared effort to “create the conditions for a true and just peace” in the Middle East, as he said on 22 March 2006 to the participants in the International Conference convoked in Rome by the United Nations Committee for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People. In December 2008 he led the delegation that took part in the work of the Permanent Bilateral Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel, which met to further negotiations between the two parties after the Fundamental Agreement sanctioned in 1993.
On 17 August 2009 Benedict XVI appointed him titular Archbishop of Acquapendente and Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela. On the following 12 September he received episcopal ordination from Pope Benedict XVI, in the Vatican Basilica with the concelebrating Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone and William Joseph Levada. He chose the words of St Paul’s Letter to the Romans as his episcopal motto: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35). In Caracas, where he arrived on 3 November 2009 and presented his Letters of Credence to President Mr Ramón Carrizales on 12 January 2010, he has worked specifically to reestablish an atmosphere of respect and collaboration between the Government and the Catholic Church with a view to a common commitment, especially in the area of social justice and the fight against poverty and crime.
St. Peter’s Square
May 20, 2019
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