Action Alert!

THE Vatican appointment

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | May 27, 2006

While the Pope is in Poland, the Roman rumor mills are churning overtime.

For weeks there have been little indications that Pope Benedict is preparing to tackle a daunting challenge: taking control of the Vatican's most powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, the Secretariat of State. (American readers should be reminded that at the Vatican, the Secretariat of State oversees not only foreign policy, but virtually all the affairs of the Holy See-- save only those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.) Early in his pontificate Benedict put his own hand-picked man, Cardinal Levada, at the head of CDF. Now informed sources say he's ready to make his choice for State, to replace Cardinal Angelo Sodano (who, at 78, is well beyond retirement age, has held the post for a remarkable 15 years, and, uncharacteristically, has been caught in apparent conflict with the Boss a few times recently).

The announcement, we're told, will come very soon. Who will it be?

The ideal candidate would be:

  • Someone the Pope knows well, and trusts. Someone with whom he has worked closely.
  • Italian. Since 1979 it has been possible to think of a non-Italian Pope; it's not yet possible to think of a non-Italian Secretary of State.
  • A cardinal, preferably papabili. This job commands enormous respect, and the man holding the post will be on every short list of potential successors to the current Pontiff. If he already appeared on last year's lists, so much the better.

One man neatly fills all those criteria: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa. He's Italian, he's a cardinal, he's widely respected, and he's the former secretary of the CDF, where he served for 7 years under you-know-whom. Sure enough, that's the name that friends in Rome keep hearing mentioned.

This isn't a news story. But it's something more than a rumor. Let's call it a prediction. Look for the announcement in early June.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Phil - May. 30, 2006 11:50 AM ET USA

    Just to clarify: I'm not making a recommendation, but a prediction. I did not mean to encourage suggestions as to who should be the next Secretary of State. I'm saying that it will be Cardinal Bertone.

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2006 3:34 PM ET USA

    We've had the appointment of Levada to the CDF, the "gay friendly" archbishop of San Francisco, the McCarrick clone (Don Wuerl) to Washington. I do not know much about Cardinal Bertone, but as Orthodox Catholics have a consistent record of net losers when it comes to important Vatican appointments, I am not holding my breath for any good news.

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2006 10:58 PM ET USA

    We have seen P. Benedict referred to as a Mozart of theology. Here we will get a chance to see if this most Roman of the art of romanita deserves a similar accolade for Vatican politics. I bet we will.

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2006 5:07 AM ET USA


  • Posted by: JNS - May. 27, 2006 10:10 PM ET USA

    I think it will be Card. Scola. A. Seaton

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 7:07 PM ET USA

    I think Condaleeza Rice still has a chance.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - May. 27, 2006 5:56 PM ET USA

    I hope the Pope makes sure the one he choses will be someone who has great devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary and says the Rosary everyday.

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 4:39 PM ET USA

    I hope the pope's criteria, based on his choice of Levada, will be the following: 1) Someone who is already at least an Archbishop 2) Someone with whom he disagrees 3) Someone from California

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 1:04 PM ET USA

    And if your prediction is true, Phil, then you can expect to become the next Vatican guru. Maybe, just maybe, we might see your name in print as often as we do John Allen's. Wouldn't that be refreshing.

  • Posted by: parochus - May. 27, 2006 12:50 PM ET USA

    Obviously, you're going with the longshot . . .

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 11:15 AM ET USA

    I would love to see you prove right, Phil! The adroit historical assist from the friendly Animadversor notwithstanding, I think your reasoning holds together well. The earlier non-Italians served during the era in which Italians were secure in their expectation that future popes would be Italian. The fact that that expectation is a thing of the past makes it much more difficult, I think, to imagine Benedict XVI signalling all of Italy that they can say arrivaderci (sp?) to the SOS, too.

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 10:46 AM ET USA

    With regard to Mr. Lawler's recent remark that "it's not yet possible to think of a non-Italian Secretary of State," there have been two in the last century: Jean-Marie Card. Villot and Rafael Card. Merry del Val y Zulueta.