.- It was made known Thursday that Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, has been made second personal secretary to Pope Francis.
The position is among the Pope’s closest collaborators, and this marks the first time that an Eastern Catholic priest has been appointed to the position.
The vacancy filled by Msgr. Lahzi Gaid March 17 was created when Msgr. Alfred Xuereb was transferred from his position as Pope Francis’ personal secretary to being prelate secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Msgr. Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, who had been second to Msgr. Xuereb and is a priest of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, is now first secretary to the Pope, and Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will assist him.
As second secretary, Msgr. Lahzi Gaid will aid the Holy Father in his daily life, with such tasks as translating and answering personal correspondence in the Pope’s name.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid currently serves in the Secretariat of State, and is known for reading the Gospel, and summarizing the Pope’s comments, in Arabic at his General Audiences. He has also served as translator for the Pope’s meetings with Arabic-speaking delegates, including at his encounter with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine.
He has lived for some time at St. Martha guesthouse in the Vatican, according to Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli.
He was born in 1975 in Cairo, and is one of eight siblings. In addition to his native Arabic, he speaks Italian, French, and English.
He attended the Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo, and then the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, earning a doctorate in the canon law of the Eastern Churches.
Msgr. Lahzi Gaid has worked at the nunciatures to Congo, Gabon, Iraq, and Jordan.
In 2011, following attacks against the Coptic Orthodox community in Alexandria which killed 21 and injured eight, he wrote an open letter to the imam of Al Azhar University, who regarded Benedict XVI’s condemnation of the attacks as an interference.
He has also served in St. Domitilla parish in Latina, a city south of Rome.
Fr. Gianni Toni, pastor of St. Domitilla, has said that “when Fr. Yoannis was called by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and was told of the Pope’s choice, Fr. Yoannis sent me a three word text message: ‘Pray for me.’”
“I believed that he had been appointed secretary of some nunciature,” Fr. Toni said.