I was delighted to learn that a friend, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, will return to Rome after an absence of several years as an apostolic nuncio to a number of different countries. Pope Francis today named him the new Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, as part of the Section for First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches.

We first met in late 2007 when he began serving in the Vatican as the Chief of Protocol of the Secretariat of State. In 2012, Benedict XVI had named him nuncio to Nicaragua and in ensuing years he served as nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Guyana, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Bahamas, Suriname, and Belize.

The Nigerian-born prelate speaks English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Arabic. These languages definitely served him well in the protocol office where he met leaders from many nations around the world.


Pope Francis, at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the second week in a row, told the pilgrims in the square, “In our continuing catechesis on missionary zeal, we now consider the apostolic dimension of evangelization. In the Creed, we profess that the Church is ‘apostolic’.”

He explained that, “an ‘apostle’ is literally one who is ‘sent’. In the Scriptures, we read that Jesus chose the twelve Apostles, called them to himself and then sent them forth to proclaim the Gospel. After his resurrection, he appeared to the Twelve and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so now I send you’, breathing upon them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.”

Francis asked, “But are we aware that being apostles concerns every Christian? Are we aware that it concerns each one of us? Indeed, we are required to be apostles – that is, envoys – in a Church that, in the Creed, we profess as apostolic.

“The experience of the Twelve apostles and the testimony of Paul also challenges us today,” continued the Holy Father. “They invite us to verify our attitudes, to verify our choices, our decisions, on the basis of these fixed points: everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations; the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously.”

He then explained that the Christian vocation “is a great thing because, although by the will of Christ some are in an important position, perhaps, doctors, ‘pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ’.”

Francis, in concluding remarks, said, “Those who are ordained have received the mission of teaching, governing and sanctifying in Jesus’ name and authority, yet all the members of the faithful, as sharers in the Lord’s priestly, prophetic and regal office, are called to be missionary disciples, ‘apostles in an apostolic Church’. May the recognition of our common dignity and equality inspire us to ever greater unity and cooperation in proclaiming, by word and example, the good news of our salvation in Christ.”


An important weekend for two people: Pope Francis who visited family in Asti, in Italy’s northern region of Piedmont, and Brazilian-born Gleison De Paula Souza, a family man and high school teacher in Puglia, southern Italy, whom the Pope named as secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

I remember interviewing the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago the day before the cardinal electors started meeting in congregations before the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. He noted that the reform of the Roman Curia was high on the agenda of many cardinals, and suggested that the time had come for well-qualified lay people to head some of the offices in the Roman Curia, and to be placed in positions of importance. For example, Cardinal George specified he saw no reason why a competent, experience layman or woman should not head a pontifical council (The councils are now called dicasteries).

And Pope Francis has brought some lay people into responsible positions during the reform of the Roman Curia. Though none head a dicastery, he did name Lateran University Professor Vincenzo Buonomo to head the Disciplinary Commissionof the Roman Curia in 2021.


Bishop Marco Prastaro told Vatican News: “The Pope threw himself into our arms.”Asti’s bishop, who accompanied Francis on his two days in Piedmont, spoke of “an experience of great joy and great human warmth that made us feel part of something beautiful.” The inhabitants of Asti took “a step forward towards him, and the Pontiff embraced us all,” one by one. Of the homily, the bishop said: “He reminded us that God is present in every man’s life and takes it all into consideration.”

Before boarding the helicopter, Bishop Prastaro told Vatican News, “the Pope thanked us for the warm welcome and added ‘sorry to disturb you’. I had just said to him again: ‘Holiness, come back whenever you want, this is your home’.” Asti’s bishop thus recalled the final moments of the “long-awaited meeting” with Pope Francis, who came “to rediscover the flavor of his roots” as he confided in the Mass in the cathedral.

This photo of Pope Francis – nè Jorge Mario Bergoglio – was taken in the bishop’s residence in Asti with several generations of his relatives.


A 38-year-old husband and father of two, Gleison De Paula Souza has been appointed secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. Originally hailing from Brazil, Souza teaches high school in Puglia.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Originally from the state of Minas Geiras, in south-eastern Brazil, Gelison De Paula Souza’s journey has taken him to Puglia, in the ‘heel’ of Italy, and now to the Vatican. On Thursday, Pope Francis appointed Souza as secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. Thirty-eight years old, married and father of two daughters, De Paula Souza teaches religion at a secondary school, the A. Vallone Liceo Scientifico e Linguistico Statale in Galatina, Puglia.

The newly appointed secretary of the dicastery was a member of the Orionian religious family, between 2005 and 2016. In 2015, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Theology at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome and in 2019 a Master’s degree in Philosophical Sciences at the University of Salento in Lecce.