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BY Edward Pentin
In a rare interview, Cardinal Angelo Sodano has spoken about the leaking of confidential documents from the Roman Curia.
The current Dean of the College of Cardinals, who served 16 years as Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Secretary of State, underlined the commitment among Vatican officials in serving the Pope, though said that naturally none of them are flawless, and pointed out that although diversity of opinion exists among cardinals, that does not mean division. He also praised the media for some coverage of the Holy Father but criticised it for “distortions”.
In the interview, which appears in the latest edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the 84 year-old cardinal said reports of division among cardinals in the Curia “astonished me”, even though he said he felt he should not have been surprised. “Our old philosophy professor, during studies at the Seminary of Asti, told us: ‘Do not be astonished by anything, just be surprised when you see that [River] Po has no banks.’ Yet the implication of various maneuvers did surprise me, because diversity of opinion does not mean division,” he said.
He explained the many times he has voted in meetings of cardinals but was never surprised when one voted in favor and another against. “We were friends and we remained friends,” he said. “Eventually, in light of various votes, the Holy Father could then decide freely, with all the elements of judgment that were offered him.” He added that this happens even in the consistories and during meetings of those who head the departments of the Curia or are cardinals resident in Rome.
“It is therefore understandable that among different personalities, different nationalities, cultures, social sensitivities, there are different judgements on the various methods of work,” said Cardinal Sodano. “Who does not remember that at the beginning of the Church there were discussions, for example, between Paul and Barnabas in proclaiming the Gospel? "They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company,” we read in the Acts of the Apostles (15:39). And Barnabas went to Cyprus, while Paul went to Syria. In the intervening centuries, religious orders more diverse have arisen.”
He said that among their apostolic methods are sometimes contradictions, but all then come together in “the fundamental unity of the same spirit of service to the Church of Christ.”
Asked what he thought about the press coverage, the cardinal said: “The press certainly has the mission to inform the public about the Holy See. For example, I was pleased it had given great importance to the visit of Benedict XVI in Milan for the World Meeting of Families; and the contribution of the Pope and the Church to help earthquake victims in Emilia and to support the Christians of Nigeria, tested by dramatic events.”
But he said his assessment is “naturally different when you move from information and pass to distortion of the news.” He added: “In fact, in reaction to negative phenomena there is some temptation to frame them in a false perspective that can obfuscate the beauty of everything.”
Turning to the running of the Vatican, Cardinal Sodano distinguished between the different offices of the Roman Curia and the Governorate which runs Vatican City (and to which many of the confidential documents have related).
“As is known, the Curia is a set of dicasteries and agencies that assist the Roman Pontiff in the service of the Universal Church. The Governorate is instead responsible for the leadership of Vatican City State,” he explained. “From personal experience I can assure you that in general there is a commitment to build a real working community in the service of the Pope. Of course, in a community so large, some may fulfil their duties less. Only the angels and saints in heaven are flawless!”
Cardinal Sodano was also asked about his sixteen years as Secretary of State, and what it is like to carry such a responsibility. He said that each person who fills the position “has his own personality and each meets different problems, according to the times.”
The cardinal, who allegedly has had some differences with the current Secretary of State in view of his lack of diplomatic training, said he is “now happy to collaborate, as much as I still can, with my successor, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to whom I am tied by a very old familiarity and a common spirit of service to the Roman Pontiff.” He also made a point of recalling his past acquaintances with previous Secretaries of State - Cardinals Domenico Tardini, Amleto Cicognani, Jean Villot and Agostino Casaroli.
“All of us cardinals of the Curia are trying to build an "Apostolic Upper Room " gathered around the Successor of Peter, without being surprised by the difficulties of the moment,” he said. “In this we are encouraged each day by the great goodness of Benedict XVI and his wise directives, pleased to be able to offer our service.”
He concluded the interview by recalling Monsignor Giuseppe Del Ton, a great Latin scholar, who described the dome of St. Peter's basilica as a symbol of stability during the difficult years of World War II. “The dome seemed to say to the prelate: I’ve seen other gales, I’ve seen other storms (alios saw Ventos, aliasque tempestates),” Cardinal Sodano said. “This is the serenity that history, teacher of life, also teaches us.”