Bertone Vatican's new "prime minister"

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, former collaborator of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was named as Holy See Secretary of State - the equivalent of a prime minister - in one of a number of changes and appointments announced yesterday.

Vatican Information Service reports that Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Secretary of State effective from 15 September 2006. Salesian Cardinal Bertone will take up his new post on the same day.

72-year-old Bertone was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's "right hand" at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1995 until 2002 when he was appointed archbishop of Genoa. He is a canon lawyer who was ordained in 1960. He collaborated in the last phase of the revision of the Code of Canon Law, which was promulgated in 1983, and directed the working group that translated it into Italian.

In a further sign that the Pope is stepping up the pace of change in the Roman Curia, the resignation of Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State, was also announced with effect from the same date.

The Detroit Free Press reports that as governor of Vatican City since 1997, Cardinal Szoka was the boss of the 1,500 employees who staff the post office, the hospital, a store, a gas station, the police force, gardens, kitchens and other buildings. Cardinal Szoka was first brought to the Vatican in 1990 by Pope John Paul II to be its budget director.

Cardinal Szoka and the late Pope shared a Polish heritage, and the Cardinal periodically dined with the Polish pontiff. When he was Detroit's archbishop, he convinced John Paul to visit Detroit in 1987, as part of the pope's American tour.

Last year, the Cardinal movingly described Pope John Paul II's final days. Cardinal Szoka saw the pope propped up on pillows in a bed in the middle of a room.

"He looked at me with his eyes. He tried to nod at me. I know he recognised me," said the Cardinal. He said he knelt on the floor, alternately holding the pope's hand and stroking his arm. In Polish, he told him, "I offered mass for you this morning. I prayed for you this morning and the whole world is praying for you."

In other changes, reported by Zenit, Pope Benedict also appointed two physicists, Theodor Hänsch of Germany and Edward Witten of the US, as ordinary members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Hänsch is professor of physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, and director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching.

Witten is professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, founded in 1603, is currently made up of 80 academicians named for life by the Pope.

Cardinal Bertone will be new secretary of state (Vatican Information Service, 22/6/06)
2 Physicists Named to Academy of Sciences (Zenit, 21/6/06)
Former Detroit cardinal to retire from Vatican post, Szoka ran papal government since 1997, will step down Sept. 15 (Detroit Free Press 21/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Catholic-hierarchy.org)

Ratzinger assistant to head influential Italian diocese (CathNews 12/12/02)

Pope promotes 'hardliner' in reshuffle of his top team (Timesonline 23/6/06)
Pope names Bertone as secretary of state (The Age 23/6/06)

23 Jun 2006