VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2005 ( Benedict XVI has appointed Father Wojciech Giertych, of the Order of Preachers, as the new theologian of the Pontifical Household.

Father Giertych, 54, is succeeding a fellow Dominican, Cardinal Georges Cottier, 83, who was appointed to that office by Pope John Paul II in December 1989. The Vatican press office announced the change today.

Father Giertych is a member of the General Council of the Dominican order, and a professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome and of the Studium of the Dominican Province of Poland in Krakow.

Born in London to Polish parents, he made his religious vows in the Order of Preachers on Aug. 15, 1976, and was ordained a priest on June 20, 1981.

The new Pontifical Household theologian received his doctorate in theology from the Angelicum. He speaks Polish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Russian.

The office of Pontifical Household theologian seems to date back to St. Dominic, at the time of Pope Honorius III (1216-1227), according to the Pontifical Yearbook. This is the reason the post is always held by a Dominican.

In an interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Cottier explained that the Pontifical Household theologian reads and gives the "nihil obstat" to all the texts that the Pope's collaborators write who assist him in the preparation of his addresses, messages and similar texts.

This duty does not include texts that deal with the diplomatic corps and Vatican diplomacy.