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Women play decisive role in Vatican diplomacy, says official

Francesca Di Giovanni reflects on her tenure as the first woman named to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State

File photo of Pope Francis meeting Francesca Di Giovanni

File photo of Pope Francis meeting Francesca Di Giovanni. (Photo: Vatican news)

Published: March 04, 2023 05:00 AM GMT

Updated: March 04, 2023 05:03 AM GMT

Women play an increasingly "decisive" role in Vatican diplomacy and promoting peace worldwide, said the undersecretary in the Vatican's foreign ministry office.

In an interview published March 3 by L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Francesca Di Giovanni reflected on her tenure as the first woman named to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State. Pope Francis appointed Di Giovanni to her role in January 2020, after working in the Secretariat of State for 27 years.

Di GIovanni called her nomination "prophetic" in the interview and said she thought it could lead the way for women in senior Vatican positions to become the norm.

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"Pope Francis wants a greater presence of women where decisions are made, even here," she said, adding that the pope "encourages and supports" women working in diplomacy at all levels.

The changes within the Vatican's own Secretariat of State, Di Giovanni said, also reflect a growing trend of women working in diplomacy which is beneficial to all.

"Today we see more women carrying out, even in a discreet and hidden way, a decisive role in the life of international politics and peace processes," she said.

"Female intuition and the specific talents of women working in the service of peace allow for a healthy and enriching collaboration with men when they are listened to on an equal level."

Those specific talents, she explained, include a tendency to seek "forms of cooperation rather than  competition" and an attention to interpersonal dynamics. 

In particular, she said diversity among those pursuing the Vatican's international interests allows the Secretariat of State to properly respond to the multilateral contexts it operates in.

In her role, Di Giovanni works with intergovernmental organizations at the international level and multilateral treaties. She said that especially in today's polarized multilateral landscape, the Vatican has a unique role to play due to its "continual commitment to impartiality."

"As a moral voice, the Holy See always points to the values of justice, of truth and the good," she said. The Vatican "doesn't have other interests in its diplomatic work other than accompanying nations in building peace."

Despite the long-standing problems with the multilateral system highlighted by Pope Francis, Di Giovanni cited the deal brokered between Russia and Ukraine in Turkey on grain exports as well as the progress made in the recent U.N. climate summits as evidence that diplomacy can still achieve important results.

Among the highlights of her career, she said, was during the buildup to the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, when scientists, diplomats and religious leaders gathered at the Vatican before the conference.

Some 40 leaders of the world's major religions signed a joint statement calling on the international community to take more drastic measures in fighting climate change, which Pope Francis presented to the president of the summit, Alok Sharma, at the Vatican.


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