Pope gives top German assistant more power

VATICAN CITY Fri Dec 7, 2012 9:40am EST

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a child held by private secretary Monsignor Georg Ganswein (R) before conducting mass at Bresso airport near Milan June 3, 2012. REUTERS/Paolo Bona

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a child held by private secretary Monsignor Georg Ganswein (R) before conducting mass at Bresso airport near Milan June 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Paolo Bona

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Friday promoted his German priest-secretary to a job that significantly increases his influence and power in the Vatican.

Monsignor Georg Ganswein, who has been the closest person to Benedict since his election in 2005, will be elevated to the rank of archbishop in the new job, whose official title is Prefect of the Pontifical Household.

As prefect, Ganswein, 56, already one of the most recognizable and powerful figures in the papal court, will arrange all the pope's private and public audiences and his daily schedule.

But because he is expected to keep his job as chief private secretary, he will have even more power in deciding who gets to see the German pope, who is now 85 and looking frailer.

Ganswein is expected to keep the new job for the remainder of the papacy. His predecessor held it for some 14 years. The pope has a second secretary, a Maltese monsignor, but he has considerably less power than Ganswein.

In his new job, Ganswein succeeds American Archbishop James Michael Harvey, who was made a cardinal last month and appointed to be the head of Rome's Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls.

Both Ganswein and Harvey were the superiors of Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler who was convicted of stealing sensitive papal documents and leaking them to the media.

Ganswein was the person who confronted Gabriele, now serving an 18-month jail sentence for aggravated theft, about documents that had gone missing. Harvey, as head of personnel with direct contact with the pope, was the man who fired Gabriele.

Because of the leaks scandal, Ganswein is expected to further tighten his control over Vatican personnel who have a direct connection to the papal apartments.

When Harvey was made a cardinal, the Vatican denied that he was being promoted in order to move him out of the Vatican in the wake of the leaks scandal.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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