Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 10:51 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Sunday that Pope Francis has a new personal secretary, Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius, a priest from Uruguay known for his ministry with children on the streets.
Pope Francis first met Aemilius in 2006 when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
In one of his first Masses after becoming pope, on March 17, 2013, Francis recognized Fr. Aemilius in the crowd at the Church of Santa Anna in the Vatican and said: “I want to introduce you to a priest who comes from afar, he has come, a priest who has been working with street children for a long time, with drug addicts. He opened a school for them, he did many things to make Jesus known, and all these street boys and girls today work with the study they have done, have work skills, believe and love Jesus.”
Aemilius replaces Fr. Fabian Pedacchio, who served as the pope’s secretary from 2013 to 2019. Pedacchio returned to his position in the Congregation for Bishops in December. The new secretary will support Fr.Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, the pope’s personal secretary.
Born in Montevide in 1979 into a family without faith, Aemilius converted to Catholicism in high school, inspired by the witness of joy in the priests he encountered who served the poor, according to Vatican News.
He felt called to the priesthood to dedicate his life to the poor and abandoned children in Uruguay, and was ordained a priest in 2006. Aemilius studied theology in Rome, and directed Jubilar John Paul II High School in Uruguay.
Aemilius told L’Osservatore Romano in 2013 that Pope Francis’ witness as Archbishop of Buenos Aires was “decisive in my life.”
“It struck me greatly when, during Holy Thursday Mass celebrated in a neighborhood similar to a Brazilian favela, where a lot of drugs circulated, he did the washing of the feet for drug addicts and sick people of AIDS with a shocking tenderness. And with his gesture he redeemed many inhabitants of the neighborhood, prisoners of that tremendous mechanism that are drugs and his way,” the priest said.
“He taught me to get the best out of each individual, however different he may be from all the others, and to put it to good use for the good of all,” Fr. Aemilius said.