VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has made a key change at the helm of the most important position in the Roman Curia, appointing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa as the Vatican’s new secretary of state.

Cardinal Bertone, 71, a Salesian jurist and theologian, will be one of only a few non-diplomats to serve as secretary of state since it was created in 1572. He will replace Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 78, who has served in that capacity for 15 years.

The Secretariat of State essentially runs the Holy See, as it is responsible for both its internal and foreign affairs and for approval of appointments of bishops and Church documents.

In the same June 22 statement that announced Cardinal Bertone’s appointment, the Holy See said that the Pope had accepted the resignation of 78-year-old U.S. Cardinal Edmund Szoka as president of the commission governing Vatican City State. The cardinal from Michigan, who was instrumental in putting Vatican finances on an even keel in the 1990s, will be replaced by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, 71, currently the Vatican’s foreign minister.

The statement said both Cardinal Bertone and Archbishop Lajolo will “be nominated” for their respective positions Sept. 15, when the Pope will hold a special audience with the staff of the Secretariat of State to publicly thank Cardinal Sodano for his “generous service to the Holy See.”

A source close to the Vatican said the announcement was made now to halt widespread speculation about new Vatican appointments in the Italian press.

In an emotional response to his appointment, Cardinal Bertone — who like Cardinal Sodano comes from the Piedmont region of Italy — said that he loved the Church of Genoa and had “dedicated his heart and energies” to the archdiocese for three years. “Now I am called to Rome. As always, I obey,” said Cardinal Bertone. “I ask the Lord that I be faithful and accompany the Pope in this promising stage of the New Evangelization.”

Moved to tears, the cardinal asked the “dear faithful” of Genoa for their “fraternal understanding, filial adherence to the Holy Father and fervent prayer.” The news of the appointment was, he said, “a Copernican revolution” for him.

Ratzinger’s Collaborator

Cardinal Bertone was born in Romano Canavese near Turin on Dec. 2, 1934, the fifth of eight children. He is a long-standing friend of the Holy Father: For more than seven years between 1995 and 2003 he worked closely with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

During that time, he coordinated the publication of the third secret of Fatima and, in 2002, helped bring Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo back into communion with the Church after his brief marriage to a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Before his first spell as a Vatican official, Cardinal Bertone served from 1991-1995 as archbishop of Vercelli, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law, and served for two decades as a university rector and professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

The cardinal is regarded as an outspoken defender of the faith. In 2004, he was the first cardinal to speak out against The Da Vinci Code, calling the book a “sackful of lies.” He has an outgoing personality, is a passionate fan of the Juventus soccer team — sometimes commentating on matches — and is an accomplished singer.

Many Vatican and papal observers have welcomed Cardinal Bertone’s appointment, hailing it as one that brings a “pastor” rather than a diplomat to the helm of the Secretariat of State.

In so doing, according to Vatican analysts, Benedict has highlighted his intention to emphasis doctrine in the life of the Church.

“Cardinal Ratzinger made no secret of his belief that doctrine and theology, rather than ecclesiastical organization and diplomacy, should have priority in the life of the Church, and that priority should be reflected also in the work of the Curia,” said Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things. “It is perfectly understandable that Pope Benedict’s appointment of Cardinal Bertone as Secretary of State is viewed as advancing that view of curial priorities.”

No ‘Revolution’

For papal biographer George Weigel, Cardinal Bertone’s previous collaboration with the Pope clearly played a major role in his appointment.

“I suspect that the appointment of Cardinal Bertone means that Pope Benedict is looking less for a ‘vice-pope’ and more for a trusted interlocutor with whom he can test and share ideas before implementing them,” Weigel said.

Within the Vatican, officials expressed enthusiasm over the announcement. One called it “a definitive indication of movement towards a new pontificate.”

Said the diplomat, “This is no revolution but he’s taking things slowly and working very shrewdly — just look at the caliber of personnel he’s bringing in.”

Edward Pentin

writes from Rome.

Pope Says Appointment Is ‘a Great Sacrifice’

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has written a letter to Catholics of the Archdiocese of Genoa, Italy, concerning his appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa as the Vatican’s new Secretary of State.

During the three years Cardinal Bertone has led the diocese, the Pope said in his letter, “you have learned to appreciate those gifts and qualities that make him a faithful pastor, especially capable of combining pastoral care and doctrinal wisdom.

 “It is precisely these characteristics, together with the mutual understanding and trust we developed over our years of shared service at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that have induced me to choose him for this exalted and delicate task in the service of the Universal Church at the Holy See.

“I know that I have asked a great sacrifice of Cardinal Bertone; and I know that the sacrifice of the faithful entrusted to his care in Genoa is no less, but I am certain that his affection and his prayers for your community will be brought ad Petri sedem (to Peter’s chair). The history of your diocese demonstrates your generous fidelity to the Vicar of Christ, to which I appeal also by virtue of the name I chose for my own Petrine ministry: the name of the last Genovese Pope, so devoted to the Madonna della Guardia. To her I entrust you all in this moment of change — delicate but full of grace — because ‘in everything God works for good with those who love him.

“For the sake of your faithful and obedient generosity towards the Holy See, I will undertake as soon as possible to appoint a new successor to the See of St. Syrus.

“I ask you to join me in praying to the Spirit to help us in this discernment and, from this moment, I assure you of my remembrance and apostolic blessing in prayer for all elements of the Church in Genoa: pastors, consecrated people, families, young people and the sick.”

Vatican Information Service