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THE Vatican appointment

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | 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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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