Vatican City, Dec 7, 2012 / 09:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI named his private secretary as the new head of the papal household, an important post because it carries the responsibility of coordinating the pontiff’s schedule and deciding who is able to meet with him.
Monsignor Georg Gänswein was appointed as the new leader of the papal household on Dec. 7, after the American Cardinal James M. Harvey had served in the position for nearly 15 years.
As part of the appointment, Pope Benedict raised Msgr. Gänswein to the level of archbishop and made him the titular archbishop of Urbisaglia, the largest archaeological park in the Italian region of Marche.
In his new role as prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Gänswein will serve as the gatekeeper for meetings with the Pope as well as direct the papal household.
Pope Benedict appointed the 56-year-old German exactly two weeks after he honored the previous prefect by making him a cardinal in a ceremony where he created six non-European cardinals.
Cardinal Harvey was also then named archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four major basilicas in Rome.
Critics say Cardinal Harvey's removal from the papal household could be related to his support of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's former butler currently in prison. However, the fact that Pope Benedict elevated Harvey to the level of cardinal and gave him an important position seems to lessen the weight of that argument.
The papal household, where Archbishop Gänswein will now work, is made up of two bodies, the papal chapel and the papal family.
The papal chapel is comprised of religious who help the Pope in his spiritual functions as head of the Church.
Archbishop Gänswein was born in the Black Forest town of Reidern am Wald in 1956 and, like the Pope, grew up in a solid rural Catholic environment.
His father was a blacksmith, who became the owner of an agricultural machinery business in the Black Forest.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau at the age of 28 and studied canon law at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
In 1995 he began working for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and then went on to work for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Archbishop Gänswein became the personal secretary of the doctrine department’s leader at the time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and he continued to serve him as his secretary even after he became Pope.
Italians know the new papal household head, whose hobbies include tennis, skiing and flying airplanes, as "Padre Georg" or "Bel Giorgio," which means beautiful George.
He speaks six languages, including German, English, Spanish, French, Latin and Italian.