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The years of Tarcisio Bertone: Pope Benedict XVI's main collaborator

2013-09-02

As Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone played a key role in the Vaticans international affairs, especially during Benedict XVIs eight year pontificate.  

The fifth of eight children, he was born near the Italian city of Turin in 1934. As a young boy, he spent most of his time at the city's Valdocco oratory, famous for once being the home of St. John Bosco. He was ordained a Salesian priest at the age of 26. He was a theology professor for 20 years and was later rector of Rome's Salesian university. In 1991 he was appointed bishop of Vercelli, in northern Italy.

Only two years later he was named second-in-command at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. At the time, the Congregation was lead by then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. That was the start of a long cooperation and friendship.

CARD. TARCISIO BERTONE
April 2008
"You could say that I’ve been with the Pope since he arrived at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I wasn’t a secretary of that dicastery at that time, but at first a consulter, an expert. It was he himself who nominated me as a consulter, and so you could say we’ve known each other for 24 years. And we’ve lived here and have seen each other regularly.”

In 2002, Pope John Paul II appointed  Bertone as archbishop of Genoa and later Cardinal. But his most important task came when Benedict XVI chose him as Secretary of State on June 22nd, 2006. Since then, the two have been close collaborators in governing the Catholic Church. 

CARD. TARCISIO BERTONE
April 2008
"He’s a very friendly man, benevolent and simple.  In terms of governing, he gives reasons for each rule. And when it comes to taking decisions, he states the problem clearly, the "status quaestionis”, as he once said.”

But Cardinal Bertone's six years as Vatican Secretary of State haven't always been free of trouble. Often, Bertone has had to endure criticism about his way of governing the Roman Curia. 

But Benedict XVI's trust in him was always made clear.  Back when he was Pope, he even refused Bertone's resignation in 2010, when the Cardinal turned 70, which marks the official retirement age according to canon law.

Since Ratzinger's own resignation last February, Cardinal Bertone has continued to exercise his role as Secretary of State. During the Sede Vacante, and as Camerlengo of the College of Cardinals, Tarcisio Bertone was in charge of  making preparations for the conclave. 

When Pope Francis was elected as Pontiff back in March, Cardinal Bertone kept his office until Pope Francis chose to appoint a new Secretary of State.


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