.- A Uruguayan with four decades of experience at the Vatican has just made history. He’s the first non-cleric to be chosen by the Pope as the “number two man” in a Vatican department.
Dr. Guzmán Carriquiry was appointed as secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America at noon on May 14.
He replaces the commission’s vice president Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, who just a day earlier was named secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Carriquiry will now work closely under Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and president of the commission for Latin America.
The commission itself is dedicated to strengthening ties between the Vatican and the Church in Latin America, assisting with doctrinal and pastoral needs. The cardinal will count on Carriquiry as chief counsel and collaborator.
Uruguayan by birth, Carriquiry is trained in law and social sciences. He organized Catholic university students and directed the Uruguayan bishops’ communications before making the move across the Pacific.
The “Roman phase” of his life began in 1971, when he arrived along with his wife and their firstborn. He was called to work in the newly-formed Consilium de Laicis which evolved into the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Forty years in the same department, four children and eight grandchildren later, he has been called up again for a big move.
But, he is no stranger to breaking “glass ceilings” in the Vatican. He became the first lay “capo ufficio” - head of office – of the department for laity under Pope Paul VI. In 1986, John Paul II tapped Carriquiry for another unprecedented step when he chose the Uruguayan as sub-secretary of the same department.
Other men without Roman collars have held important positions in the Vatican. Joaquin Navarro-Valls was John Paul II’s press office director. Also, the Pontifical Academy for Science has had numerous non-clerical heads, but never has this high of a Vatican curial position been held by a layman.
Carriquiry brings a wealth of knowledge of Latin America to the post. Through his work, he is thoroughly familiar with the Church, lay movements and associations there. Church and state leaders throughout the region know him and his work well.
He has a vote of confidence from the department he is leaving. “We have absolutely no doubt that his broad experience and his passionate love for the Church will make him able to work with competence and authentic spirit of service for the pilgrim Church on the ‘Continent of Hope’,” said the Pontifical Council for the Laity shortly after his appointment.
As it happens, Carriquiry will be on his way to Latin America within the week. A May 17 meeting of Latin American bishops will take him home to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he will meet with Cardinal Ouellet and local bishops for the first time.
His first mission as secretary of the Vatican’s Commission for Latin America will thus be carried out in the city where his life began.