In a move that was expected since last month’s consistory, Pope Benedict XVI appointed his private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, as prefect of the Papal Household. He succeeds Cardinal James Harvey, who was assigned to become the archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls with his creation as cardinal.
Undoubtedly one of the most visible and definitely the most popular curial prelates, ‘Gorgeous George’ will simultaneously be elevated to the dignity of archbishop.
Archbishop-elect Gänswein has been the closest daily collaborator of the Holy Father since before the latter’s election as pope. As prefect he will be responsible for all audiences of the pope, as well as all travels within Italy and all major events that the pope participates in. There is no indication that he will cease to be the pope’s personal secretary, though, so for the time being at least, Archbishop Gänswein will be pulling double-duty.
The new archbishop, who will be given the titular see of Urbs Salvia, is noted for his careful performance of his duty, a testament to German pünktlichkeit and thoroughness perhaps. It has, in any case, now led to his even greater influence in the closest circles around the pope, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Pope Benedict does not seem to be the kind of man who needs dozens of people around him at any time, instead preferring the simple company of a few trusted collaborators.
A date for Gänswein’s consecration has not been announced, but it is a safe bet that it will take place on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January, when the pope generally consecrates a number of bishops himself.
Photo credit: Alessandra Tarantino, PA