“We women can offer the world elements of communion, as small as they might be”, the highest-ever ranked female Vatican diplomat has said.

– “My appointment, recognition of the work of women”

In January the Italian Francesca Di Giovanni became the first-ever woman to hold a managerial position in the Vatican Secretariat of State when Pope Francis appointed her as an under-secretary in the Section for Relations with States.

A lawyer by training, Di Giovanni has worked in the Vatican ‘State Department’ for 27 years.

In her new role, she oversees the multilateral sector on behalf of the Holy See, with responsibility over such issues as development, the environment, conflict resolution, women’s righst, intellectual property, disarmament and racial discrimination.

Speaking March 5 to Madrid archdiocesan magazine Alfa y Omega about her appointment, Di Giovanni said: “The Holy Father made an innovative decision that, beyond my own appointment, is part of a process of recognition and particular attention to the work of women”.

The Vatican under-secretary recalled that she is not the first woman to hold such a high-ranking position in the Roman Curia, with three other women currently holding equivalent ‘number three’ positions in two other Vatican departments.

But Di Giovanni said she took as particular inspiration the Pope’s words at Mass on New Year’s Day this year, when he said that “women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes”.

“I believe that we women can offer the world elements of communion, as small as they might be”, Di Giovanni affirmed.

– Pope Francis, a “true beacon for the international community”

Reflecting on her nearly three decades in the Vatican Secretariat of State, Di Giovanni said compared to 27 years ago, now “there are more lay people and more women”.

“But the essential part is still there. The Holy See builds relationships with an open collaboration that is highly appreciated in international organizations. In fact, they always ask us to keep talking.

“The agenda changes, but we continue to place the dignity of people and their fundamental rights at the centre”, Di Giovanni said.

– In the face of crises, “we must not surrender to pessimism”

As examples of the Vatican’s leadership on the international stage, the Italian lawyer and diplomat pointed to Pope Francis’ influence on the care for our Common Home and on the attention and care of migrants, an impact she described as “a true beacon for the international community”.

What distinguishes the Holy See’s diplomacy “it is that it always carries a message of peace and harmony”, Di Giovanni explained.

“For that reason, and because it puts the person at the centre of its concern, its voice must be heard”, she said.

Though Di Giovanni admitted that the Vatican at present finds itself in “a moment of lack of confidence in multilateral organisations and in the ability of countries to find global consensuses”, she insisted that it is vital that agreements in the international community “prevail in the long run, because the home we share is one”.

“The world isn’t that big and it’s also intimately interconnected, as we are seeing these days”, Di Giovanni said, in a likely reference to the migrant crisis on the Greece’s land and sea borders.

“We have to be aware that what happens in a country is not limited exclusively to its territory”, she added.

“We must not surrender to pessimism; we must once again believe in the possibility of living in peace and of solving common problems together”.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.