Pope appoints Sister Raffaella Petrini as head of Vatican governorate

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Nov. 4 (UPI) — Pope Francis on Thursday appointed Franciscan Sister Raffaella Petrini to serve as the new secretary-general of the Vatican governorate of the Vatican, making her the first woman to hold the position.

As the head of the governorate, Petrini, 52, will oversee administrative operations such as the Vatican museums, post office and police, RTE reported. The role makes her the highest-ranking woman in the city-state.

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The National Catholic Reporter said the secretary-general position is traditionally held by a bishop.

Petrini is a Rome native and has served on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples since 2005. She received a political science degree from the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Social Guido Carli and a PhD from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, where she teaches, the Vatican News reported.

Pope Francis has said he wants women to play larger roles within the Catholic Church. In January, he changed the church’s rules to allow women to act as liturgical readers, altar servers, assist during services and administer communion.

The pope said women have made a “precious contribution” to the church, but the new law merely formalizes roles that women have already been taking in numerous countries, including the United States.

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In addition to elevating Petrini, the pope appointed lawyer Giuseppe Puglisi-Alibrandi as deputy secretary-general of the governorate.