Today was a busy news day in the Vatican, filled with events and meetings and a big appointment, as it often is just before a Pope leaves on a foreign apostolic pilgrimage. In fact, Francis departs tomorrow for the DRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for South Sudan, returning to Rome on February 5. Francis today met with the General Chaptrer of the Order of Malta, Bolivia’s foreign minister and entourage, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and members of the Italian Federation of Water Volleyball.

In big news for both the Vatican and the United States, Pope Francis today appointed a Chicago-born Augustinian missionary, Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, to head the powerful Dicastery for Bishops. He succeeds Cardinal Marc Ouellet whose resignation was announced today as having reached the age limit of 75. Ouellet turned 78 in June of 2022. Accused of sexual assault last year, the cardinal has stated his innocence in writing and a video. In addition, a Vatican preliminary investigation found insufficient evidence to start a formal cause.

Bishop Prevost will take office on April 12 with the title of archbishop-elect.


Pope Francis has named Robert Francis Prevost, an Augustinian missionary who has been serving as Bishop of Chiclayo in Peru, as the new prefect for the Dicastery of Bishops. Bishop Prevost succeeds Cardinal Marc Ouellet, both as prefect and as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

By Vatican News

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the offices of prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, presented, by His Eminence Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., upon reaching the age limit, and has called Bishop Robert Francis Prevost, O.S.A., until now bishop of Chiclayo, Peru, to succeed him in the same offices, at the same time conferring the title of Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Chiclayo. He will assume office on 12 April 2023.

Biography of Robert Francis Prevost

Robert Francis Prevost, 67, was born in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on 14 September 1955. He entered the novitiate of the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA) in 1977, in the province of Our Lady of Good Counsel in St. Louis, and made his solemn vows on 29 August 1981. He studied at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, graduating with a degree in Theology.

At age 27, he was sent by the Order to Rome to study Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum). He received priestly ordination on 19 June 1982. He received his Licentiate in 1984, then was sent to work in the mission in Chulucanas, Piura, Peru (1985-1986).

In 1987 he received his doctorate with the thesis, “The Role of the Local Prior of the Order of St. Augustine.” In the same year he was elected vocations director and missions director of the Augustinian Province of “Mother of Good Counsel.”

In 1988 he was sent to the mission of Trujillo as director of the common formation project for Augustinian aspirants from the Vicariates of Chulucanas, Iquitos, and Apurímac. There he served as community prior (1988-1992), formation director (1988-1998), and teacher of the professed (1992-1998). In the Archdiocese of Trujillo, he was judicial vicar (1989-1998), and professor of Canon Law, Patristics, and Morals in the San Carlos e San Marcelo Major Seminary.

In 1999 he was elected prior provincial of the “Mother of Good Counsel” Province. After two and a half years, the Ordinary General Chapter elected him prior general, a ministry the Order entrusted to him again at the 2007 Ordinary General Chapter.

In October 2013 he returned to his province to be teacher of the professed and vicar provincial; positions he held until Pope Francis appointed him apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Chiclayo, Perun, on 3 November 2014, elevating him to the episcopal dignity of titular bishop of the Diocese of Sufar. He took canonical possession of the diocese on 7 November in the presence of Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop James Patrick Green; he was ordained bishop on 12 December, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the Cathedral of his diocese.

He has been bishop of Chiclayo since 26 September 2015. He has served as second vice president of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference since March 2018. Pope Francis appointed him a member of the Congregation for the Clergy in 2019 and a member of the Congregation for Bishops in 2020.



The Vatican today announced that Pope Francis has appointed 14 new members to the Dicastery for Bishops, including two nuns and a lay woman from Argentina.

This dicastery, formerly a congregation, is the Vatican office responsible for naming new bishops around the world. Bishops in mission territories, however, are usually appointed by the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Named to this dicastery were Sister Raffaella Petrini, FSE, secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Sister Yvonne Reungoat, FMA, former superior general of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and Doctor Maria Lia Zervino, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. (Vatican photo: L-R: Sr. Petrini, Sr. Reungoat and Maria Lia Zervino)

The 2020 Annuario Pontificio or Pontifical Yearbooks listed one nun working in the then Congregation for Bishops, Sister Uribe Solis Maria de los Angels, SGCS.

SISTER RAFFAELLA PETRINI, FSE: (Nov 5, 2021: from “The Angelicum,” the magazine of the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, aka the Angelicum): Pope Francis has appointed Angelicum professor, Sr. Raffaella Petrini of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist (F.S.E.), as the Secretary General of the government of Vatican City State. Sr. Raffaella is the first woman to hold this position. Her appointment is a source of joy for our university, since Sr. Raffaella obtained her doctorate from the Angelicum’s faculty of Social Sciences in 2015 and she currently lectures in that same faculty. Sr. Raffaella Petrini belongs to the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Congregation, and was born in 1969. She currently teaches Welfare Economics and Sociology of Economic Processes at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum. She holds a Doctorate in Social Sciences from the Angelicum in Rome; a Master of Science in Organization Behavior, Barney School of Business, University of Hartford (CT), USA, and a Degree in Political Science (specializing in Industrial Relations) from LUISS in Rome.

SISTER YVONNE REUNGOAT, FMA: Sister Reungoat was born in Plouénan, north-west France on 14 January 1945. She studied Salesian religious life when she was admitted to the Paris Postulancy in 1963. She entered into religious service on 5 August 1965. She earned a degree in History and Geography from the University of Lyon and became a school teacher in Lyon for 11 years. Between 1996 and 2008 she was member of the General Chapter and in 2002 was elected Vicar General of this institute. Sr. Yvonne is one of the first seven women appointed members of the then Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, named on July 8, 2019 by Pope Francis. She is also the 9th Superior General of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco – and first non-Italian – since 2008. In January 2021, she was appointed Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. She had previously been awarded the Medal of Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour (Wikipedia).

DOCTOR MARIA LIA ZERVINO, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. With today’s papal appointment, she becomes the first lay woman as a member of the Dicastery for Bishops. An Argentinian, she is a friend of Pope Francis’ from his days in their native country. In March 2021, she wrote a personal Letter to Pope Francis that was published in the Jesuit magazine, “America.” (Dear Pope Francis: Thank you for 8 years of challenging and healing the church. But women still deserve more. | America Magazine)


On January 15, 2020, Pope Francis appointed Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, currently an official of the Secretariat of State, as under-secretary for the Section for Relations with States, responsible for the multilateral sector. Born in Palermo in 1953, Dr. Di Giovanni has worked in the Secretariat for 29 years and holds a law degree. After completing practicum as a notary, she worked in the juridical-administrative area at the International Centre of the Work of Mary (Focolare Movement). On September 15, 1993 she began work as an official in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. She has served in the multilateral sector, especially in the areas of migrants and refugees, international humanitarian law, communications, private international law, the status of women, intellectual property, and tourism.

Besides Di Giovanni, perhaps the most well-known and prominent woman in a Vatican leadership position is Barbara Jatta, who was appointed as director of Vatican Museums by Pope Francis in 2017.

In addition, in 2017, the Holy Father named Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni, two women married with children, as under-secretaries at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in 2017.

At the Vatican Dicastery for Communications where the number of lay people is high compared to other departments of the Holy See, two women hold senior managerial positions. Slovenian Natasa Govekar heads the Theological-Pastoral Department, the Brazilian Cristiane Murray is Vice Director of the Vatican Press Office.

The numbers of women in leadership positions in the Vatican has grown considerably with Pope Francis in the years of his pontificate.

We may be hearing more in the near future about women being promoted to leadership positions because the March 19, 2022 publication of the new constitution on the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium, foresees a greater presence and participation of the lay faithful in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis recalls in the Preamble that, “The Pope, the bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the Church… Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a missionary disciple to the extent that he or she has encountered God’s love in Christ Jesus.” Hence the involvement of laymen and women in the roles of governance and responsibility. If “any member of the faithful” can preside over a Dicastery or a curial body, “given their particular competence, power of governance, and particular function,” it is because every institution of the Curia acts in virtue of the power entrusted to it by the Pope.

That constitution came into force on June 5, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

(Sources: Vatican News: January 15, 2020; March 6, 2020; March 21, 2022)