VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2010 ( Flaminia Giovanelli, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will be the first laywoman to serve as the dicastery's undersecretary.

The pontifical council announced today in a communiqué that Giovanelli, 61, will fill the post left vacant since 2006 when Bishop Frank Dewane was named to the Diocese of Venice, Florida.

"The appointment of Giovanelli," the note said, "confirms the great trust the Church and Benedict XVI place in women. In his time, Pope John Paul II also underlined the need for a 'fuller and meaningful participation of women in the development of society.'"

The statement was signed by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, respectively president and secretary of the justice and peace council.

Giovanelli is the second woman to serve as undersecretary of a pontifical council.  Rosemary Goldie held the position at the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 1966-76.

She is also the second-highest ranked woman in the Vatican after Sister Rosanna Enrica, who serves as undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Giovannelli, a native of Rome, is a graduate in political science from the University of Rome and holds diplomas in library science and religious studies.

She began working in the then Pontifical Justice and Peace Commission in 1974, where she has since followed matters relating to development, poverty and work in the context of the social doctrine of the Church.

She is an expert in the development and labor policies of the International Labor Organization, the Council of Europe, the European Union, ECOSOC and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.