Lorenzo Ornaghi Named New Italian Culture Czar in Government Shakeup

Pope Benedict Lorenzo Ornaghi - H 2011

Prime Minister Mario Monti made the announcement on Wednesday.

ROME – New Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday named Lorenzo Ornaghi, a figure with strong ties to the Vatican but limited connections to film or television, as the country’s new Minister of Culture.

Ornaghi was one of 17 new ministers named Wednesday by Monti, who was soon after officially sworn in as the replacement to media kingpin Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned as prime minister Saturday amid personal scandals and the widening ripples of the European debt crisis.

Monti’s new cabinet is made up entirely of private sector officials, technocrats, and diplomats -- without a single politician -- as he seeks to pass a series of political and economic reforms that could have negative electoral implications for those associated with them. Monti said Tuesday he believed his new government would stay in office until 2013.

Ornaghi, 63, is an unexpected choice as Minister of Culture, which oversees nearly all of the government’s cultural spending, ranging from its economic contributions to the budgets at film festivals, including those in Venice and Rome, to some content produced by state broadcaster RAI, the national fund to encourage films and television programs to be shot in Italy, to other areas like historical sites, music, art, and dance.

To take the post, Ornaghi is expected to take a leave of absence from his position as rector of the Catholic University in Milan, where he teaches political science. Previously, he was vice-president of the Vatican newspaper Avvenire, and director of the Catholic magazine Life and Thought. He has written multiple articles and books related to theology and political philosophy.

The Ministry of Culture raised its profile last year, after then-minister Sandro Bondi boycotted the Cannes and Locarno Film Festivals for screening films critical of Berlusconi, and then he blasted the Venice Film Festival in 2010, after he accused jury president Quentin Tarantino of handing out the festival’s top prizes to his personal friends, including the Golden Lion for best film to Somewhere, directed by former girlfriend Sofia Coppola.

Bondi was replaced earlier this year by the lower-profile Giancarlo Galan, who on Wednesday was one of the voices critical of Monti’s appointments.