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From the Angelicum to Vatican City

The Angelicum community extends our warm congratulations to a beloved professor and alumna of the Faculty of Social Sciences. She has been called to serve the Church from within the walls of Vatican City. As she begins her special mission, we wanted to go beyond the headlines, and give you an Angelicum introduction.

Sr. Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E. is the first woman in the history of the Church to be appointed Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State. This makes her the second highest authority within the executive branch of this monarchy. In her new mission, Sr. Raffaella is charged with the oversight of Vatican City, which concerns both the residents, and everything that it takes to make a civil state run smoothly, from infrastructure and telecommunications to economy, currency and healthcare. Though she is in charge of the operational aspect, her mission also includes various interactions at the service of the Holy See. In short, her position is both delicate and multifaceted. It is a mission to exercise the charism of administration for the Catholic Church within the Vatican. Her academic background, her vocation as a consecrated religious woman, and her personality of being attentive to the needs of all, certainly provide her with a strong foundation as she begins this assignment from the Successor of St. Peter.


Who is Sr. Raffaela?

Raffaella Petrini was born in 1969 and is a religious sister of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Congregation, whose mission is to restore the sense of the sacred, especially the sacredness of human life, in a world where we see a rupture between the sacred and the secular. Sr. Raffaella holds a Master of Science in Organization Behavior, Barney School of Business, University of Hartford (CT), USA, and a degree in Political Science (specializing in Industrial Relations) from LUISS in Rome. In 2008 she enrolled in the Licentiate program at the Angelicum where she graduated in 2011 with a thesis entitled “the contribution of Franciscan hospice care to a culture of solidarity” (Compagnoni), and then continued in the Doctoral program where she defended her thesis in 2014; “Health, equity and care through the end of life”.  She is currently a professor of Welfare Economics and Sociology of Economic Processes in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum.   


In her first public speech following her appointment, at the Camillianum Institute, Sr. Raffaela spoke about sustainability while shedding light on the potential of digital. She spoke of “the line of demarcation that economists draw between growth (economic) and development (cultural and social) and of cutting costs and waste.” 

Sr. Raffaella in fact has always focused on care, on healthcare, extending beyond the economic aspect alone to consider the care of the whole human person, which must be the measure and goal of these systems.  Personal care is a theme that must be treated from an economic policy point of view, but also as a way of seeing the world. 

Sr. Petrini’s research revisists the way that the economic perspective views these issues so that more value is placed on these elements. It is an issue that has an impact on economic policy.

The studies and research conducted so far by Sr. Raffaella are particularly significant to put into practice in her new role. It is necessary to rethink and reorganize the economy in such a way as to give adequate space to the care of the person, seen in his or her integrity, towards integral health and well-being, therefore not only physical, but also social, economic, spiritual, etc.. And so care of the person would no longer be seen as a “loss”, a passive item, from an economic point of view.


In her new role, Sr. Raffaela has the mission of oversight of Vatican City, which covers both people and everything that it takes to make a state work: security, reporting, economic aspects, health, among others. She is in charge of the operational side (he has a boss who is a Bishop). General Secretaries have to make the system work. She is secretary general. At the same time you also have to manage the relationship with the Holy See.

In short. A lot of work and very delicate. Who are your collaborators?

It is very interesting to discover that within the Governorate of Vatican City, the President is a priest, the Vice-Secretary is a layman and the Secretary General…. Well, it’s our own Sr. Raffaella Petrini. An excellent example of an alliance of religious life, both male and female, and lay life. 

We are certain that Sr. Raffaella will know how to make the best of this collaboration, also because she was trained at the Angelicum, where she found a multidisciplinary approach and many different realities, both in the religious and secular spheres.


In fact, Sr. Helen Alford, O.P., Dean of Social Sciences, shared that Sr. Raffaella hopes to continue teaching at the Angelicum, despite the great commitment that her new position will require of her.  We hope so!

Helen, who was her teacher, and even more so Fr. Compagnoni, her thesis moderator and doctoral thesis advisor, shared with us about Sr. Raffaela. As a student, she really loved the family atmosphere at the Angelicum, where dialogue between faculty and students is easy, because it is an open and international environment. This exchange of views has been fundamental, especially in the subjects that Sr. Raffaella teaches.

THey also shared about how she appreciated that at the Angelicum it is possible to study and appreciate different disciplines, especially within the Faculty of Social Sciences.  The “Social Doctrine of the Church” course, for example, is constantly confronted with other theories, other visions, different theoretical positions on themes such as justice or well-being. 

This brings an enrichment and a breadth of views, as the Holy Father emphasizes in “Veritatis Gaudium”, it is very important to know different points of view.

And this is exactly what we can find at the Angelicum, a multidisciplinary approach, not only theological and philosophical.

We are of the idea that Pope Francis by putting a woman as secretary of the Governorate, a key role, wants to bring those characteristics proper to women, such as care for the person, the capacity for a global and synthetic gaze, the welcoming inherent in the feminine. The Holy Father’s choice to appoint Sr. Petrini is certainly no accident.

A leadership with a different flavor without taking anything away from personal ability.

(We would like to point out that, in parallel, at the Angelicum there are currently three women in important roles; Sr. Helen, Dean of Social Sciences, Sr. Catherine, Dean of Theology and Sr.)

So let us follow the path indicated by Pope Francis and bring the two souls, male and female, to work together to grow and develop in a mutually enriching way. No sterile competition, but 2 different visions of reality that interpenetrate, opening new scenarios in a fruitful exchange. 

But not only active collaboration between men and women, but also between religious and lay life. Let us expand this alliance in every sphere, let everyone collaborate, priests, nuns and laity, each bringing his or her own contribution, and it will be an infinite richness.