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Legionary priest appointed number two at Vatican City office

By on Monday, 2 September 2013

The first papal phone, donated to Pius XI by Catholics in the US. Fr Vergez oversaw a major overhaul of the Vatican's phone and email systems (Photo: CNS)

The first papal phone, donated to Pius XI by Catholics in the US. Fr Vergez oversaw a major overhaul of the Vatican's phone and email systems (Photo: CNS)

A Legionary priest who led a major overhaul of the Vatican’s telecommunications infrastructure and set up public email addresses for two popes has been named secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City.

Spanish-born Fr Fernando Vergez, 68, fills a vacancy left by Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, whom the pope named last month to the Vatican’s supreme tribunal as adjunct secretary under US Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Fr Vergez, who is director of the Vatican’s telecommunications department, will continue to hold his old post while serving in his new capacity at the governor’s office.

His appointment is seen as part of the Pope’s efforts to reorganise how the Vatican operates. The secretary-general’s post is critical because he coordinates and manages the daily operations of Vatican City State and is in charge of making all “fundamental working decisions”, said Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

The governing office, which manages the business and financial affairs of the 108-acre state, was a key target in the 2012 “VatiLeaks” scandal.

The scandal saw the publication of confidential Vatican documents as well as letters written by the current apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, when he was secretary-general of the governor’s office.

In the leaked documents, the archbishop had warned of corruption, “abuse of power long rooted in the various departments” of the governorate, and inflated costs and a lack of transparency in rewarding contracts for work in Vatican City State.

Fr Vergez was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1945 and was ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ in 1969.

He earned a degree in philosophy and theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and completed a programme in archival studies at the Vatican Secret Archives.

His four decades working at the Vatican began in 1972 with a position at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He moved to the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1984.

Ten years later, Blessed John Paul II made him head of the Vatican internet office, where he oversaw its expansion and created multilingual public email addresses for Pope John Paul in early 2005 and Pope Benedict XVI soon after his election the same year.

In 2008, Fr Vergez was made director of the Vatican’s telecommunications department.

He managed a major modernisation and overhaul of Vatican City State’s telecommunications infrastructure, which began installing some 250 miles of high-speed fibre optic cables and equipping the Vatican telephone system with new ways to deliver voice and multimedia over the internet.