VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has named a laywoman undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, marking the first time in more than 20 years that a woman has served as undersecretary of a pontifical council.
The appointment of Flaminia Giovanelli was announced at the Vatican Jan. 21. At the justice and peace council, she succeeds Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., who held the position until 2006. The post has been vacant since then.
Giovanelli, 61, is a political scientist, who has worked at the council since 1974. As a council official, she had been responsible for issues dealing with development, poverty and labor from the point of view of Catholic social teaching.
The last woman to serve as undersecretary of a pontifical council was Rosemary Goldie, an Australian, who held the position from 1966-76 at the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Giovanelli will not be the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican, though. Salesian Sister Rosanna Enrica serves as undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
In a statement Jan. 21, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the justice and peace council, said the appointment of Giovanelli “demonstrates the concern of the church for the promotion of the dignity and rights of women in the world,” which is one area of special concern to his office.
Giovanelli was born in Rome and went to high school in Brussels, Belgium. She earned a political science degree from La Sapienza University in Rome, a diploma from the librarian program at the Vatican Library and a degree in religious studies from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Since 2006, she has served on the Joint Working Group of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.