French priest with expertise in human rights appointed secretary of new Vatican social justice department16 June 2017 | by Christopher Lamb
Fr Duffé has expertise in defending persecuted groups and has worked with refugees
Pope Francis has appointed a French priest with wide-ranging expertise in human rights, migrants and medical ethics as the first secretary of a Vatican department dedicated to social justice.
Fr Bruno-Marie Duffé, 65, will become the number two at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, a body that has a diverse portfolio covering everything from climate change to capital punishment.
The Lyon based professor-priest is an expert in the Church’s social teaching having taught this, and moral theology, for more than two decades at the city’s Catholic university and a Jesuit centre in Aix.
He also appears to be a man in sync with the Pope who believes that Catholic social thought must “never forget people” and be grounded in the realities of everyday life.
Fr Duffé also has expertise in defending persecuted groups: he helped set up the UNESCO chair for minority rights while founding and directing a centre for human rights at Lyon university. He’s also come into contact with refugees, including a group of displaced from eastern Europe who appealed to the Church for help by occupying the square in front of Lyon’s Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
This experience will serve him well given his new dicastery has a section specifically dedicated to migrants and will be overseen personally by the Pope, who has made care for refugees a top priority for this papacy.
Fr Duffé will work under Cardinal Peter Turkson, the department’s prefect, with the two under-secretaries Fr Michael Czerny and Fr Fabio Baggio.
His appointment means the Pope has now filled the main leadership slots in both of the new Vatican dicasteries that he has created during his papacy: at the end of May, Francis named Brazilian priest Fr Alexandre Awi Mello as secretary of the Laity, Family and Life department.
But it also means that Francis has decided against appointing lay people to the number two position in human development or family dicasteries despite their statutes allowing for this possibility.
This doesn’t rule out lay people being appointed in the future, although this time the Pope has opted for a highly qualified priest who has a doctorate in political philosophy and impressive past experience. Fr Duffé has worked across the world with NGOs, been a chaplain to entrepreneurs and worked as an ethics professor at a cancer centre in Lyon.
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