Pope Francis Wednesday named Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, a member of the Vatican diplomatic corp for over 25 years, the ‘sostituto,’ or ‘substitute,’ of the Secretariat of State.
Apostolic nuncio to Mozambique since 2015, Pena will start in the position of substitute Oct. 15, according to a Vatican statement Aug. 15.
Pena, 58, began diplomatic service to the Holy See on April 1, 1993, and has served in Kenya, Yugoslavia, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and in apostolic nunciatures in South Africa, Honduras, and Mexico. He was nuncio to Pakistan from 2001 to 2014.
Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, he was ordained a priest in 1985, and made a bishop in 2011. He studied canon law and speaks Spanish, Italian, English, French, Portuguese and Serbo-Croatian.
Pena takes over the position from Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who resigned June 29 in anticipation of beginning his assignment as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints later this summer.
Becciu, 70, who was elevated to the cardinalate June 28, served in the Secretariat of State, under both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, beginning in 2011. He will start at the congregation for saints Aug. 31.
It is yet unknown if Pena will join Pope Francis as part of the papal entourage on his trip to Dublin Aug. 25-26.
The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope.
Since the publication of Pastor Bonus, Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic constitution which introduced a reform of the Roman Curia, the Secretariat of State has been divided into two sections: the Section for General Affairs and the Section for Relations with States.
The substitute, who must be a bishop, acts as head of the Section for General Affairs, which is responsible for the everyday affairs and service of the pope, including overseeing the facilitation of appointments within the Roman Curia, the duties and activity of representatives of the Holy See, and the concerns of embassies accredited to the Holy See.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is the secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican’s “foreign minister.”
As of November 2017, Pope Francis established a third section of the Secretariat, specifically to oversee the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski is at the helm of the third section, called the “Section for Diplomatic Staff.” Previously apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of human resources office within the Secretariat of State.