Secretariat of State Diplomat Moved to Venezuela

Archbishop Parolin Named Apostolic Nuncio

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 18, 2009 ( A top diplomat from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State is being sent as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, which is currently experiencing trouble spots in Church-state relations.

Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 54, had been the subsecretary of the section for relations with states in the Vatican’s secretariat. In Venezuela, he will substitute Archbishop Giacino Berloco, who was named June 18 as the nuncio in Belgium.

Archbishop Parolin’s appointment was announced Monday by the Holy See. He heads to Venezuela as the Church in that South American nation endures sore relations with President Hugo Chávez’s government.

Just last week, the Venezuelan National Assembly, where Chávez supporters are the majority, approved a new education law the bishops had opposed because it removes the possibility of religious education in schools.

The Venezuelan episcopal conference released a statement Aug. 6 lamenting the rapid approval — «from one day to the next» — of the bill. The prelates expressed their disapproval of the lack «of necessary consultation» and said the quick passage «attacks calm citizen participation and dialogue and blocks the search for the common good of society.»

Similarly, the bishops’ conference spoke out against a July 31 Chávez administration decision to close 34 radio stations that gave voice to the opposition.

The prelates on that occasion lamented not only that closing radio stations «casts doubt on the pluralism and freedom of expression established by our laws,» but also that the decision «affects hundreds of Venezuelans who can remain without work and without a certain future for their families.»

Archbishop Parolin was born in Italy in 1955 and ordained a priest in 1980. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1986, where he has served in pontifical representations in Nigeria and Mexico, being appointed to the Secretariat of State in 2002.

Meanwhile, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero will take his spot as subsecretary in the section for relations with states. The Genoa-born monsignor was already serving as an advisor in that department.

Monsignor Balestrero was born in 1966 and ordained in 1993. He entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1996, serving in Korea, Mongolia and the Netherlands. He was moved to the Secretariat of State in 2001.

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