Who are the new five Gentlemen of His Holiness? Here are the names:
- Massimo Sgrelli, who led the Ceremonial of the Italian government from 1992 to 2008;
- Eugenio Ficorilli, who led the office of the Ceremonial of the Italian State to the Presidency of Council;
- Gerardo Capozza, who comes from the Italian office for the Ceremonial of State;
- Roberto Sorbello, who worked at the Ceremonial of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and now collaborates at the Capitol's Ceremonial that is Rome's Town Hall;
- Igino Rugiero, who served in the Ceremonial of the Italian Presidency of Republic and now leads the general secretariat of the Military Affairs Office and the Supreme Council for the Defense.
The appointment of these gentlemen of His Holiness is food for thought, for many reasons.
First, all of the new gentlemen are Italian and come from the Italian State Ceremonial. This gives the impression that the two banks of the Tiber got close.
Recently – and after some years of internationalization - the Vatican has been becoming once again more Italian in many fields. There is a sort of comeback of the Italian influence within the Sacred Walls. The appointment of five Italians, all coming from the Ceremonial of State, might show that the Vatican’s Italianizing trend did not happen by chance.
The second piece of food for thought: Pope Francis' modus operandi. Pope Francis has shown until now a certain intolerance towards titles like that of Gentlemen of His Holiness. Rumor had it that the Pope wanted to abolish these titles and the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, since both recalled the Papal Court.
In the end, both the structure and the titles stayed. The Pope changed the way of managing them. In the particular case of the Gentlemen of His Holiness, observers noted that some of the noble families traditionally associated with the Papacy are not represented among the Gentlemen. At the same time, the latest appointments choose State officials without many connections with the Vatican world.
The third reason: although one could find these issues to be of secondary or even less importance in a complex Vatican world, they are not. The Vatican speaks through its tradition, and its language is the protocol refined in centuries of history. Titles are not just for the titles' sake, in the Vatican.
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Pope Paul VI knew it very well. Many said that, with his reform, Paul VI shut down the papal court. This is not true. He simply transformed it.
In the past, the papal court was divided into the Pontifical Chapel, that assisted the Pope in his functions of the spiritual father of the Catholic and Church, and the Pontifical Family, that helped the Pope in his temporal role as sovereign of the Church and head of State, but also his daily activities.
The court itself was rooted in history, and it was the expression of the spiritual reality around the Pope. Every gesture, every action had to be linked to religious meaning. That is why the Pope had a “family” helping him in his temporal functions, not State officials.
Here comes the fourth thing: what are the criteria to choose the new members of the pontifical family?
The impression is that the current criteria are more worldly. There were new members of the Pontifical Household appointed because of worldly motives or to express a particular interest in the past. There are known cases of Gentlemen of His Holiness who never should have been.
On the other hand, the fact that five people with similar profiles joined the club makes one think that there was a worldly, rather than a purely spiritual calculus at work in the choice.