7 March 2012

Jockeying to become 'The Last Pope' (Petrus Romanus)..... Cardinal 'Peter' Bertone plots "Sensational Countermoves"

The Pope stands up for the Secretary of State. He has foibles but he’s staying

Swiss Guard in the Vatican

“These are the documents to view and to show the world, whose historical truth strikes me”. This is how Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone replied to journalists’ questioning him about the poisonous climate caused by the “vatileaks”, as soon as he had arrived to the «Lux in Arcana», an exhibition of the documents kept in the Vatican Secret Archives. He feigned calm, surrounded by Vatican gendarmes who escort him everywhere. But if from the outside, during the recent interview with TG1 news and in many public engagements, the Vatican “prime minister” has appeared serene, from the inside the atmosphere in the Vatican has been very different as the search for the “mole” who has leaked confidential documents to the media continues.

These documents included the letters reporting corruption in the management of contract work that were written by the former Secretary General of the Governatorate, Carlo Maria Viganò, confidential documents on the IOR and the internal debate on the regulation against money laundering, an anonymous note reporting a presumed assassination attempt on the pope and a letter by the Secretary of State urging cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi to leave his office as president of the Toniolo Institute – the Catholic University’s “safe”- in favour of Giovanni Maria Flick who is supported by Bertone.

In the last few days there has been a palpable growing unease in important episcopates, both in Europe and worldwide. Already two years ago, after the excommunication of the Lefebvrian Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier, was withdrawn, some Italian and European cardinals tried to ask the Pope to accept the resignation offered by Bertone, who was about to turn 75. This request was put forward by cardinals Camillo Ruini, Angelo Bagnasco, Angelo Scola and Christoph Schönborn during a meeting with Benedict XVI in Gandolfo Castle. The pope ended the discussion before the subject was even broached as he had already done before, when other cardinals, like the archbishop of Cologne,  
Joachim Meisner, had criticized Bertone.

Cardinal 'Peter' Bertone

Ratzinger has known Bertone for many years. Bertone was his number two in the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith and the pope appreciates his loyalty and he was well aware, when he nominated  him in 2006 as cardinal Angelo Sodano’s successor, that the election of a  cardinal external to the diplomatic corps was going to cause some aftershocks. Many close collaborators of the Secretary of State have interpreted the recent events as a backlash by the old guard, the diplomats.

But even though the Vatican Gendarmerie has been carrying out a thorough investigation, for the time being the ‘mole’ or ‘moles’ have not been found. In the past weeks the aftershocks are turning into a full blown earthquake which is destabilizing the whole institution which seems split, or better torn by power struggles. The way Bertone manages the Secretariat of State has been criticized for the excessive interest shown in Italian affairs (one only needs to think of the attempted and failed acquisition of the San Raffaele foundation) and for the undergrowth of non-cleric plenipotentiaries, real or presumed, who act in his name or just use it.

Two weeks ago, in occasion of the consistory, during various one to one meetings, many foreign cardinals clearly expressed their discomfort for how the Curia is managed. Some, still in St Peter’s Basilica after the ceremony for the creation of new cardinals openly talked of possible candidates to papacy and of a future conclave. This is unheard of. Several cardinals asked information on the “favourites” and expressed bitterness for the fact that the Secretariat of state seems to be managed by Italy. Up until now Benedict XVI has defended his chief collaborator from the attacks and criticisms; “ He has faults, like his predecessors who had different ones” he is reported to have said, implying that he wants to keep Bertone , soon to be 78, at his side for a long time to come. The Secretary of State seems safe at the helm and some believe he is plotting sensational countermoves, like that of a change in the leadership of the IOR.

One must not forget that the Church is used to shield those under attack. Ratzinger pays great attention to making important decisions and , despite the unease and the criticisms now expressed by  
several cardinals, the resignation offered by Bertone two and half years ago might not be accepted by Benedict any time soon.


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