BY FREDDY GRAY
IN THE most significant appointment of his pontificate so far, Pope Benedict XVI has named Cardinal Tarcisic) Bertone as the Vatican's Seartary of State.
Cardinal Bertone, who worked alongside Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith (CDF) from 1995 to 2003, will become arguably the most powerful figure in the Catholic Church after Benedict XVI himself.
The move is expected to have a profound impact on the administration of the Church. One Vatican official described it as a "definitive movement" in Pope Benedict's
By appointing Cardinal Bertone Pope Benedict has broken with the tradition that the Secretary of State must have a strong diplomatic background. When Cardinal Bertone, currently Archbishop of Genoa, takes up his post on September 15 he will be the first Secretary of State with no background in diplomacy since the French Cardinal Jean MIK who served under Paul VI.
The 71-year-old cardinal replaces the controversial Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 78, the most high-profile ecclesiastical politician of recent times, who has been Secretary of State for the last 15 years.
It seems likely that Cardinal Bertone will act differently from his predecessors, focusing more on internal Church governancrthan on securing the Church's political influence.
There are murmurs of discontent in the Secretariat of State about Cardinal Bertone's lack of diplomatic experience. One Vatican official was reported to have said that the position of Secretary of State is "no place for on-the-job training".
In a letter explaining the appointment of Cardinal Bertone, the Pope described him as "a faithful pastor, particularly able to combine pastoral care and doctrinal preparation".
He wrote: "These characteristics ... have led me to choose him for the high and delicate task at the service of the universal Church, in the Holy See."
In a statement to his archdiocese Cardinal Bertone said that the move was for him a "Copernican revolution". He said "I am called to Rome. As always, I obey."
The Secretary of State — sometimes referred to as "the deputy Pope" or "Vatican prime minister"is responsible for directing and coordinating the work of all Curial departments as well as overseeing the Vatican's relations with other nation states.
The outgoing Cardinal Sodano, whose father had a seat in the Italian parliament, has often been accused of being overtly political. Many observers felt that, during his time as a diplomat in Chile, Sodano was too close to the military dictator General Augusto Pinochet. By contrast Cardinal Bertone, having spent most of his career focusing on doctrine, is untouched by such accusations.
John Allen, a leading Rome correspondent, commented: "The logic of 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."
A Vatican official, who did not wish to be named, added that the appointment reflected Pope Benedict's desire to remove the "same circle" that has dominated Vatican affairs for many years. "This is an
indication of a definitive movement towards a new pontificate," he said. "We need fresh, new faces."
But some curial officials are reported to have resisted the appointment, fearing that Cardinal Bertone was a "reactionary".
At the CDF. Redone was involved in producing key documents such as Dominus Jesus. the controversial reassertion of the primacy of the Catholic Church, and he helped to devise new procedures to clamp down on wayward theologians. Cardinal Bertone also played an important part in the Congregation's response to the sexual abuse crisis. Last year the cardinal launched a fierce attack on the anti-Catholic novel The Da Vinci Code, which he described as "a sackful of lies".
But Vatican commentators say that Cardinal Bertone — like Pope Benedict XVI himself — has confounded his critics by combining a robust orthodoxy with great warmth and charm. He is a keen football fan and has even acted as a match commentator on television. He once joked that although he opposed human cloning, "an exception might be made in the case of Sophia Loren".
Cardinal Bertone, a Salesian , has dedicated much of his time to helping young people. One of his first visitations as Archbishop of Genoa was to a local discotheque, where he was photographed on the dance floor.
In another important part of Pope Benedict's curial reshuffle, the Pontiff has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Edmund Szoka as the Governor of Vatican City-State and replaced him with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, currently Secretary for Relations with Foreign States, effectively the Vatican's foreign minister.
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