Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Catholic World News News Feature

Cardinal Bertone named Vatican Secretary of State June 22, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI has named Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa to be the next Vatican Secretary of State, replacing Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Cardinal Sodano, who has served an extraordinary 15 years in the powerful post, will formally step down on September 15, the Vatican announced on June 22. He will be approaching his 79th birthday-- well beyond the ordinary retirement age of 75-- when he leaves the Secretariat of State.

The Secretary of State is the 2nd-ranking official at the Vatican, with broad authority over the internal and external policies of the Holy See. Acting effectively as "prime minister" for the Roman Pontiff, the Secretary of State coordinates the flow of work at the Holy See, and exerts sweeping influence over other offices of the Roman Curia.

[For a more detailed description of the Secretariat of State, see today's separate CWN headline story.]

In naming Cardinal Bertone, Pope Benedict has made an important move to mold his own leadership team at the Vatican. After his election last April, the Pontiff had re-appointed all the leaders of the Roman Curia who had served under Pope John Paul II. Last May, the Pope had named an American prelate, Cardinal William Levada, to fill the spot he himself had vacated, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The long-awaited Vatican announcement indicated that Cardinal Sodano will remain in his current position, "with all the faculties inherent to that role," until September 15. On that date, the Vatican said, Pope Benedict will receive Cardinal Sodano in an audience to thank him "for his long and generous service to the Holy See."

The appointment of a new Secretary of State had been long expected, and Cardinal Bertone's name had emerged in recent weeks as the Pope's likely choice. (On the basis of reports from contacts in Rome, CWN editor Phil Lawler predicted in May that Cardinal Bertone would be the new Secretary of State.)

A 71-year-old Salesian, Cardinal Bertone served from 1995 to 2002 as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he was deputy to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Unlike most prelates who have served as Secretary of State in recent years, Cardinal Bertone has never been active in the Vatican diplomatic corps; he will be the first non-diplomat to occupy the office since Cardinal Jean Villot was appointed by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

[For a more detailed profile of Cardinal Bertone, see the separate CWN headline story.]

Cardinal Sodano thanked Pope Benedict for the confidence he had shown by extending his appointment as Secretary of State after the death of Pope John Paul II. In his own statement released on June 22, the outgoing Secretary of State offered his best wishes to Cardinal Bertone, his successor.

Noting that he had received many interview requests in recent weeks, as the rumors of his impending replacement spread, Cardinal Sodano told reporters that after completing his term of service in September, he hoped to be able to speak at some length with the media about "the work that has been done over the years at the Secretariat of State and in the different bureaus of the Roman Curia."