Citing religious freedom concerns, bishops appoint Picarello to new post

.- As religious freedom becomes an issue for the Church in the U.S., the American conference of Catholic bishops has appointed Anthony R. Picarello Jr. as associate general secretary for policy and advocacy.

“His legal expertise and background in religious liberty matters provides a depth of knowledge and experience that is uniquely suited to the needs of the bishops’ conference,” said the conference’s general secretary Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, who made the appointment in consultation with the conference’s executive committee.

Picarello has served as the conference’s general counsel since 2007 and will retain the title. He will join Msgr. Jenkins, associate general secretaries Linda Hunt and Fr. J. Brian Bransfield and secretary of communications Helen Osman in conducting the regular business of the general secretariat.

Msgr. Jenkins said Picarello’s broader background will “support well” the bishops’ initiatives in policy and advocacy.

“He is familiar with the breadth of issues that the Conference faces, the bishops and staff engaged in them, and many of the partners who join us in promoting those efforts.”

Since he joined the bishops’ conference staff, Picarello has had many roles. He served as a member of the general secretary’s executive staff and as a consultant to the Committee on Child and Youth Protection and the Ad Hoc Committee of the Defense of Marriage. In April 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to the first Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Before joining the bishops’ conference staff, he served at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for seven years. He litigated major religious freedom cases on behalf of people of all faiths. In 2007, The American Lawyer listed him as one of the top 50 litigators under age 45.

Picarello served at the Washington Law Firm of Covington and Burling from 1996 to 2000. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in 1991. While at the university, he served as president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Student Association and as a tutor in an inner-city tutoring program.

He graduated in 1995 from the University of Virginia School of Law and received a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

He is a member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and almost all federal Courts of Appeals.

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