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Pope Francis names Franciscan sister to No. 2 position in Vatican City State

Sister Petrini is the first woman and non-clergy member to be secretary general of the Vatican’s governorate

Pope Francis on Thursday appointed Franciscan Sister Raffaella Petrini to the second-ranking position in the government of the Vatican City State.

Sister Petrini is the first woman and non-clergy member to be secretary general of the Vatican’s governorate.

The appointment makes her one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican, alongside Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, “ad interim” secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Sr. Natalie Becquart, an under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

Sister Petrini replaces Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, who was promoted to president, effective Oct. 1.




The governorate is the office of executive power of the state of Vatican City. It is led by a president, secretary general, and vice secretary general.

Pope Francis also appointed Nov. 4 the vice secretary general of Vatican City, layman Giuseppe Puglisi-Alibrandi, who was at one point also in the running for the number two position.

Puglisi-Alibrandi, 55, is a lawyer who has worked in the Vatican City governorate since 2014. In 2017, he was made head of the legal office.

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Sister Petrini, 52, is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Since 2005, she has been an official in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The religious sister, who is from Rome, is also a professor of the economy of welfare and sociology at Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), where she received a doctorate in social sciences.

She also has a master’s degree in organization behavior from the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

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