ROME — Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state, said that among the essential qualities the next pope must have is the ability to seek God’s guidance while leading his Church on earth.
In statements to the Spanish daily La Razon on Feb. 28, Cardinal Bertone said the cardinals would continue to meet this week to study “what kind of profile God wants for the Roman pontiff for the present situation in the world and the Church.”
“There are some qualities that are essential: He should be a spiritual man, so that he may be a docile instrument in the hands of God as the vicar of Christ on earth; and he should have the strength and the drive which Benedict XVI spoke about in order to guide the helm of the Church with a steady hand,” he said.
Asked how Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would be remembered, the cardinal replied that among the “many reasons to remember Benedict XVI” are “his encyclicals, his books on Jesus of Nazareth, his magisterium, his travels, his attention to crucial issues in the life of the Church, such as the liturgy, the unity of Christians, his ability to dialogue with other religions.”
His “clear and decisive interventions against pedophilia are also noteworthy,” he added.
While Benedict XVI will be remembered for his resignation, Cardinal Bertone noted, the pope emeritus “has shown the world” what it means to totally abandon oneself to the service of God.
Throughout his life, and even before his years as pontiff, Benedict XVI “has striven to be just another servant in the Lord’s vineyard,” he explained.
The former Vatican secretary of state expressed his admiration for Benedict XVI’s “illustrious intelligence, his piety, his uprightness of conscience, his firmness in his decisions and at the same time his gentleness in treating others, as I have experienced every day during these years.”
He said that, like the rest of the Church, his reaction to the Holy Father’s resignation was “a mixture of sadness, because of the affection we all have for him, and great confidence that his decision is what is best for the Church.”
Cardinal Bertone revealed that he was “very moved” when the pope emeritus said during his final Angelus that “the Lord is calling him to the mountain.”
“The Holy Father remains with us,” he explained. “He is not abandoning the Church; he is not coming down from the cross, because his adherence to the will of God is ‘forever.’ Benedict XVI loves the Church, and he continues to accompany her on her journey.”
The cardinal also said that among the most important challenges that the new pope will face is “that all the faithful, pastors and laity, in tune with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, discover the treasure of our faith and the concrete implications that the Christian message ought to have for our personal, family, social and professional lives.”
“Another challenge is that all the institutions of the Church be capable of communicating the Christian message and offering a reason to hope for all the people they serve,” he said.
Moreover, the new pope will have the challenge of encouraging society “to make our world more humane, more peaceful and more welcoming to all, especially the poor and those who are last.”
These challenges, he added, “are constant in the life of the Church.”
Cardinal Bertone said that during his time as secretary of state, he experienced many moments of both joy at seeing the Lord’s patient, guiding love and sadness at witnessing the “very real” threat of evil in the world.
“But I should thank God who has always shown me how grace abounds and that sin is never the last word,” he said, “because the Church is of God, and God will never abandon her, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us."