Pope Francis on Thursday appointed Franciscan Sister Raffaella Petrini to the second-ranking position in the government of the Vatican City State.
Petrini is the first woman and non-clergy member to be secretary general of the Vatican’s governorate.
The appointment makes her one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican, alongside Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, “ad interim” secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Sr. Natalie Becquart, an under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
Petrini replaces Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, who was promoted to president, effective Oct. 1.
Petrini, 52, is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Since 2005, she has been an official in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The religious sister, who is from Rome, is also a professor of the economy of welfare and sociology at Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), where she received a doctorate in social sciences.
She also has a master’s degree in organization behavior from the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
Saint Nicholas Tavelic and Companions
Nicholas and his three companions are among the 158 Franciscans who have been martyred in the Holy Land since the friars became custodians of the shrines in 1335.
Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia. He joined the Franciscans, and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia. In 1384, they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there. They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims, and studied Arabic.
In 1391, Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne, and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims. On November 11, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadix—Muslim official. Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus. When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused. After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.
Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970. They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized. Their liturgical feast is celebrated on November 14.