Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: Cardinal Bertone as new Vatican Secretary of State

Vatican watching has an interesting development with the appointment of Bertone as the new Vatican Secretary of State. An expert in law and ethics, he comes from outside the normal tracks of Vatican diplomacy to the Vatican's top job. The Vatican's diplomatic work is significant, an interesting study in itself, as they work a great deal "behind the scenes" in diplomatic hot spots around the world, with their influence often only becoming clear years later as archives are made open. The Vatican's role in the end of the Cold War, for example, is a particular recent achievement, with many historians crediting John Paul's leadership as allowing the Eastern Block a way to detach themselves peacefully from their hostile domination of Eastern Europe. So it's worth noting such a significant turnover in staff.

Cardinal Bertone named to state; foreign minister to run Vatican City

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI reached outside the Vatican diplomatic corps 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."

Also June 22, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of 78-year-old U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka as president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

However, the Vatican said, the pope also asked Cardinal Szoka to remain until Sept. 15, when he will be succeeded by 71-year-old Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, currently the Vatican's foreign minister.

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.

While Cardinal Sodano and many of his predecessors were trained and served in the Vatican diplomatic corps, the job of secretary of state involves more than overseeing Vatican relations with other countries.

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.

Even after being transferred to Genoa, Cardinal Bertone was a frequent visitor to Rome and joined Pope Benedict last summer for part of the pope's vacation in the Italian Alps.

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 its 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.

In a 2001 interview, he told Catholic News Service, "Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary."

Cardinal Sodano, responding June 22 to interview requests, said he would talk to reporters about his years at the Vatican after he retires.

"Today I only want to express my gratitude to the Holy Father, Benedict XVI," who asked Cardinal Sodano to continue serving as secretary of state "despite the limits of my age."

He praised the "team work" and spirit of service that mark the staff of the Secretariat of State and the other offices of the Roman Curia.

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.

Cardinal Bertone, former archbishop of Vercelli, Italy, holds a doctorate in church law. He spent more than two decades at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, serving at different periods as university rector, dean of the canon law faculty, theology student director and professor of moral theology.

He participated in the final stages of the revisions of the Code of Canon Law, released in 1983, and was editor of the Italian translation of the code.

Tarcisio Bertone was born Dec. 2, 1934, in Romano Canavese, a town near Turin. He entered the Salesians in 1950 and was ordained a priest 10 years later.

Named to head the Genoa Archdiocese in December 2002, he took office there the following February and was made a cardinal in October 2003.

Cardinal Szoka, the former archbishop of Detroit, has been head of the civil government of Vatican City State since 1997. For the previous seven years, he served as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Vatican's budget management office.


Bertone Named Secretary of State


To the surprise of no one, Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, who worked alongside then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1995 to 2003 as the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to be his new Secretary of State.

The move makes Bertone, 71, the most powerful figure in the Vatican after Benedict XVI himself. Since the era of Paul VI, the Secretariat of State has played the role of a "super-dicastery," to some extent coordinating the work of all the other departments of the Vatican. It is also responsible for the Vatican's relations with states, hence its "foreign policy."

Bertone will officially assume his duties Sept. 15. He replaces Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has held the post for 15 years.

Bertone is not a product of the Vatican's diplomatic corps, and thus reflects the priority of doctrinal concerns over diplomatic exigencies in the pontificate of Benedict XVI. (French Cardinal Jean Villot, Secretary of State under Pope Paul VI, was the last man to hold the post who did not have a diplomatic background, but the context was different, since Paul VI himself had served most of his career in the Secretariat of State).

Benedict has also accepted the resignation of American Cardinal Edmund Szoka as head of the Vatican City-State, appointing Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo as his successor. Lajolo is currently Secretary for Relations with States, effectively the Vatican's Foreign Minister.

Since Bertone may be expected to occupy himself more with the internal governance of the church, the choice of Lajolo's successor could be especially important for determining the diplomatic profile of the Holy See under Benedict XVI. Candidates are rumored to include Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, currently the papal ambassador in France; Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations; and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

While at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bertone was at the heart of some of its best-known recent documents: the declaration Dominus Iesus on religious pluralism; new rules of procedure for investigations of theologians; a new profession of faith; and a document on the role of Catholic politicians. Bertone was also involved in the early stages of the congregation's response to the sexual abuse crisis, after Pope John Paul II assigned it juridical responsibility for cases of accused priests in 2001.

Bertone earned a reputation as a "fix-it" man under Ratzinger. He took the lead in publishing the infamous "third secret" of Fatima, and also was the point man for the Vatican during the soap opera in the summer of 2001 surrounding the on-again, off-again marriage of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo to a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

A Salesian, Bertone did his license in theology on "tolerance and religious liberty," destined to be critically important issues in relationships with both Islam and China, and then completed a doctorate at the Salesianum in Rome -- ironically, on the governance of the church under another Pope Benedict, this one Benedict XIV. Bertone eventually became the head of the canon law department at the Salesianum, and participated in the revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983. In 1988, Ratzinger named Bertone as part of the commission that handled negotiations with the breakaway Society of St. Pius X, known popularly as the "Lefebvrites."

His academic ascent was rapid, and from 1989 to 1991 he served as the rettore magnifico, roughly the chancellor, of the Salesianum. In the early 1990s, Bertone was also tapped by the Secretariat of State as part of a European commission designed to aid the newly emancipated countries of Eastern Europe to prepare constitutional and legislative documents.

In 1991, Bertone became Archbishop of Vercelli, a post he held until his assignment in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last year, Bertone earned international headlines by calling The Da Vinci Code a "sack full of lies," and calling on Catholic booksellers not to sell the book.

Bertone is a staunch conservative on doctrinal issues, and a man with a very positive and optimistic spirit. In true Salesian fashion, he is good at youth ministry, and has made outreach to the young a priority in Genoa. One of his first outings as archbishop was to a local disco, where Bertone was photographed on the dance floor. He has also taken a few turns at providing color commentary during broadcasts of Italian soccer matches.

Bertone's appointment was widely expected, given his ties to the pope. Benedict's emerging approach to top appointments seems to be to tap men with whom he has a close relationship of trust, regardless of whether they fit the traditional profile for the post. (This was the case, for example, in his appointment of Cardinal William Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Many in the Secretariat of State are nonplussed by the appointment, since they regard a background in Vatican diplomacy, including a few tours in postings around the world, as a sine qua non; one told me last week that being Secretary of State is "no place for on-the-job training."

Currently, rumors in Rome suggest that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, may replace Bertone in Genoa. If so, combined with the recent transfer of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Naples, it would mean the exit from the Vatican of the most senior officials associated with the diplomatic corps, and would be widely read as "clipping of the wings" of the church's diplomats in favor of officials with a stronger doctrinal background. Sepe's replacement, Cardinal Ivan Dias of India, although a longtime diplomat himself, is also known for a strong set of theological convictions close to those of Benedict XVI.

The logic for Bertone's appointment, aside from his personal connection to the pope, is no doubt that he can ensure that concerns of Catholic identity trump the logic of compromise that is often the stuff of diplomacy. Further, he's an Italian who knows the world of the Vatican well.

It will be interesting to see, especially in the early stages, if Bertone's relative unfamiliarity with the inner workings of the Secretariat of State renders him dependent upon the very diplomats he was named to oversee. Such is sometimes the case with "outsider" appointments, and hence observers will be paying careful attention for early assertions of independence from the man who is now, in effect, the Vatican's Prime Minister.

One sign to watch for may be Bertone's line on China. As a Salesian, he will have considerable sympathy for Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, also a Salesian. Under John Paul, the diplomatic corps was frequently leery of Zen because of his outspoken challenges to Chinese authorities on religious liberty, at a time when improved relations with China is a top Vatican priority. Benedict's appointment of Zen as a cardinal suggested a break with this atmosphere of caution, and Bertone's appointment may well embolden Zen and the other critics of the Chinese authorities even further.
Tags: benedict xvi, ecclesiology, papacy, political, theological notebook

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