Pope picks Vatican secretary of state

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI reached outside the Vatican diplomatic corps last week and appointed Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa as his new secretary of state. The Vatican’s June 22 announcement said Cardinal Bertone, 71, will succeed Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 78, on Sept. 15 when the pope will hold a special audience with the staff of the Secretariat of State to publicly thank Cardinal Sodano for his 15 years "of generous service to the Holy See." Before going to Genoa in 2002, the cardinal spent seven years as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. The secretary of state is the pope’s closest collaborator, coordinating the work of the entire Roman Curia, overseeing the operation of the Vatican press office and newspaper, coordinating the preparation and publication of papal documents, and supervising the work of Vatican nuncios both in their relations with the Catholic communities in individual countries and with their governments. In choosing Cardinal Bertone, a Salesian, the pope chose a man with whom he already had a proven working relationship as well as a prelate with pastoral experience in a diocese, expertise as an educator and with a reputation of being energetic and pragmatic. While his diplomatic experience has been limited, as archbishop of Genoa he has traveled widely, including a trip to Cuba last October. Cardinal Bertone, who went to the Caribbean country with two Genoa priests about to begin work as missionaries in Cuba, met privately with President Fidel Castro. "Castro asked me to transmit an invitation to visit Cuba to Pope Benedict, who he said inspires in him friendship and trust," Cardinal Bertone told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire after the trip. The cardinal said Castro paid tribute to the Church’s social service efforts, saying that when it comes to working among the poor and needy "the Church is ahead of all of us." Internationally, though, Cardinal Bertone is best known for his work in the doctrinal congregation. As secretary of the congregation from 1995 to 2002, he helped work out details of norms employed in U.S. dioceses in cases of sexual abuse by priests. In 2000, he coordinated the publication of the third secret of Fatima, a symbolic prophecy of the Church’s 20th-century struggles with evil political systems and the Church’s ultimate triumph. The pope had sent him to Portugal to review the Vatican’s interpretation with Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, then the only surviving Fatima visionary. When Sister Lucia died in February 2005, Pope John Paul II asked Cardinal Bertone to preside at her funeral in his name. In 2002, the cardinal helped guide Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo back into communion with the Church, following Archbishop Milingo’s brief marriage to a Korean follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. At the doctrinal congregation, Cardinal Bertone also worked on early drafts of an education congregation document that said homosexual men should not be accepted as seminary candidates. That document was published in November. Pope John Paul named Cardinal Sodano secretary of state in late 1990; he had been the Vatican’s foreign minister, heading the Secretariat of State’s section for relations with states. He had already spent three decades in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, mainly in Latin America.

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