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Pope sends a message: Cardinal Bertone will stay

July 04, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has strongly signaled his support for Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a highly unusual gesture clearly designed to end speculation that the Secretary of State might be replaced.

In a letter to Cardinal Bertone, dated July 2 and made public by the Vatican on July 4, the Pontiff expresses his “profound appreciation for your discreet presence and wise counsel,” and laments “the unjust criticisms that have been directed against your person.” The Pope underlines “my personal confidence,” and indicates that he is not ready to accept Cardinal Bertone’s resignation.

The Secretary of State has been under heavy pressure because of the “Vatileaks” scandal. The leaks of confidential Vatican documents have been clearly intended to embarrass the Italian prelate, and a sense of upheaval within the Roman Curia has fueled speculation that Cardinal Bertone—who is more than 2 years beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75—might soon step down from his powerful position.

Cardinal Bertone did submit his resignation, as required, when he turned 75 in December 2010. Responding in a letter dated January 15, 2010, Pope Benedict declined to accept that resignation. Now, in expressing his renewed confidence, the Pontiff writes that his thoughts on the question of Cardinal Bertone’s retirement “remain unchanged.”

In his July 2 letter, the Pope makes it clear that he does not blame Cardinal Bertone for the current unrest in the Vatican, describing criticism of his top aide as “unjust.” In his own comments on the Vatileaks scandal, Cardinal Bertone said in June that the leaks were “a relentless and repeated attempt to separate and create rifts between the Holy Father and his collaborators.” The Pope’s letter is evidently an effort to deny that any such rifts exist.

The full text of Pope Benedict’s letter to Cardinal Bertone follows:

On the eve of my departure to spend the summer months at Castelgandolfo, I wish to express my profound appreciation for your discreet presence and wise counsel, which I have found particularly helpful over recent months.

Having noted with sorrow the unjust criticisms that have been directed against your person, I wish to reiterate the expression of my personal confidence, which I already declared to you in a letter on 15 January 2010, the contents of which remain unchanged as far as I am concerned.

In entrusting your ministry to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, and to that of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, it is my pleasure to send you a fraternal greeting, accompanied by an apostolic blessing as a sign of all desired goodness.


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