By Elena Dini
ROME — For the first time in church history, a layman has been appointed to head a Vatican dicastery. Pope Francis named veteran Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini prefect of the Dicastery of Communications. The appointment was announced July 5.
Ruffini succeeds Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, who had served as the interim leader for the communications office since March, when the former prefect, Msgr. Dario Vigano, resigned.
Ruffini was born in Palermo, Sicily, in 1956, and graduated from La Sapienza University in law. He has been a journalist since 1979. Prior to his nomination, he served as director of the television network of the Italian bishops’ conference, TV2000. Before transitioning to Catholic media four years ago, Ruffini worked for many national Italian newspapers and TV networks and received several journalism awards.
He has been married for more than 30 years, and he is the son of Italian politician Attilio Ruffini and grandnephew of Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini, who was the archbishop of Palermo, from 1945 to 1967.
“Many times in my life I had to change position, to start all over again,” Ruffini said in an interview with the SIR (Religious Information Service). “It always happened in unexpected ways. But this is the most unexpected of all. Pope Francis’ call surprised me, I didn’t expect it.
“It is a call for such a big task that it will also be a measure and constant reminder of my personal smallness,” he continued. “I cannot but express my gratitude for this appointment and offer my full commitment, everything I know and everything I am to a greater plan.”
His new responsibilities will include the continued renewal and reorganization of the Vatican’s communications media.
Ruffini's appointment comes after the pope’s decision last month to change the Vatican's communications office from a secretariat to a dicastery, the general word used for a Vatican office or department.
Caption: Paolo Ruffini (from TV2000)