This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  June 30, 2006

Pope Benedict appoints new secretary of state

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, Italy, who worked alongside then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1995 to 2003 as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to be his new secretary of state.

The move makes Bertone, 72, the most powerful figure in the Vatican after Benedict XVI himself. Since the era of Paul VI, the Secretariat of State has coordinated the work of the other departments of the Vatican. It is also responsible for the Vatican’s relations with states, hence its “foreign policy.”

Bertone will officially assume his duties Sept. 15. He replaces Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has held the post for 15 years.

Bertone is not a product of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, and thus reflects the priority of doctrinal concerns over diplomatic exigencies in the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Benedict has accepted the resignation of American Cardinal Edmund Szoka as head of the Vatican City-State, appointing Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo as his successor. Lajolo is currently secretary for relations with states.

Since Bertone is expected to occupy himself more with internal governance, the choice of Lajolo’s successor could be critical for the diplomatic profile of the Holy See. Candidates are rumored to include Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, currently the papal ambassador in France; Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the United Nations; and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

Rumors in Rome suggest that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, may replace Bertone in Genoa. If so, combined with the recent transfer of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Naples, it would mean the exit from the Vatican of the most senior diplomats, and would be widely read as “clipping of the wings” of the old guard in the Secretariat of State.

One issue to watch will be Bertone’s line on China. He is expected to have sympathy for Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, a brother Salesian. Under John Paul, the diplomatic corps was leery of Zen because of his challenges to Chinese authorities on religious liberty. Bertone’s appointment could embolden Zen and other critics of China.

-- John L. Allen Jr.

National Catholic Reporter, June 30, 2006

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: