Female Under-Secretary for Dicastery

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Pope Francis has appointed Sister Alessandra Smerilli as Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Her appointment has been welcomed as a sign of Pope Francis’ commitment to bringing about a ‘more incisive presence’ of women in the Church. Sr Smerilli was already an advisor to the Vatican City State, consultor of the Synod of Bishops, and Coordinator of the Economy Taskforce of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission. She now heads the Faith and Development Sector of the Dicastery.

A Salesian Sister from Vasto in Chieti, Italy, Sr Smerilli, earned a doctorate in political economics from the Faculty of Economics of La Sapienza University of Rome, and a doctorate in economics from the University of East Anglia School of Economics, Norwich, United Kingdom.  

On her appointment, Sister Smerilli said:  

“I am truly grateful to the Holy Father for this unexpected appointment, which fills my heart with joy and fear at the same time, for the difficult task that I will be called to carry out. I thank Him for the trust he has placed in me … 

“So far I have pursued a course of in-depth academic study, in Italy and abroad, for which I cannot but thank the teachers who have supported me, thanks to whom that course would perhaps not have been possible, and in particular the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences Auxilium, which has given me the opportunity to teach and to make my passion my object of study, remaining in contact with the students in a relationship that has enriched me and which, I hope, will not be interrupted.  

“I will now strive to bring my expertise in the field of economics and the Social Doctrine of the Church to an ever more concrete service to the mission of the Church and the Holy See. We are going through times of great trial, in which the values on which humanity has always been founded are being questioned; in which individuals and families are suffering from a devastating social, political, anthropological and cultural crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to exacerbate; in which reference points are wavering and we are called to rediscover, every day and in our own experience, what truly sustains our existence.”  

Recalling the beginning of her work with the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, she said: 

“In the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development I immediately found a warm welcome and a lot of friendship. My contribution as Under-Secretary will try to be a contribution to people, to their needs, in particular to those who suffer most from poverty, both material and spiritual. I want to try always to walk, together with all the staff of the Dicastery and those we meet on our way, with the joy of the Gospel”. 

Find out more about the Economics Taskforce that Sr Smerilli has been working on here.