Pope Francis' papacy welcomed another "first" on Thursday, with the appointment of Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, a priest of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, as the pope's second personal secretary. It is the first time that the influential position has been filled by an Eastern Catholic priest, according to Catholic News Agency.
Gaid currently serves in the Vatican Secretariat of State, and translates the pope's comments at his weekly general audience into Arabic. The current second secretary, Monsignor Fabian Pedacchio Leaniz, will become the first secretary, filling the absence left by former first secretary Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, who has been promoted to prelate secretary general of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Gaid's new position will involve handling some of the pope's personal correspondence, translation, and other tasks close to the pope.
Gaid was born in Cairo in 1975, and is one of eight siblings, reports the National Catholic Register. He speaks Italian, French, and English in addition to his native Arabic.
The Vatican Insider commented:
The fact that the Bishop of Rome has chosen an Arabic-speaking priest who belongs to an Eastern Catholic rite as one of his closest collaborators for the first time in modern history, is a fact of great significance and a sign of his support for the Eastern communities, many of which face difficult situations. It also shows his commitment to dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world.