Pope Wants Cardinal Sodano, 75, to Stay On at Vatican

Secretary of State Tells of Top Priorities

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Pope wants Cardinal Angelo Sodano to stay on as Vatican secretary of state, even as he submitted his resignation on turning 75.

In a letter Saturday addressed to the secretary of state, John Paul II expressed his appreciation for the cardinal’s service over the past 12 years and his hope that he will be able to continue to count on the Vatican official’s «enlightened collaboration» «sine die,» that is, indefinitely.

As canon law prescribes, Cardinal Sodano offered his resignation on reaching his 75th birthday. He has been secretary of state since 1990, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.

In an interview published today by Il Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest newspaper, Cardinal Sodano spoke about some of the most moving moments of these years of service to the Pope. He also spoke of three of his top objectives: to promote peace, particularly in Iraq; to extend the United Nations’ presence; and to influence the values of the new Europe.

Regarding the question of a «preventive war» against Iraq, he said: «Before presenting any other hypothesis, one must go all the way on the path of negotiation and an agreed solution. Problems are not resolved by war and, to date, the term preventive war does not appear in the United Nations’ vocabulary.»

To those who say the United Nations does not measure up to the circumstances, the cardinal responded that «all must do what is in their power to help the U.N. assume an increasingly active and effective role in the world scene.»

In this connection, Cardinal Sodano explained that the Vatican intends «to study the possible ways for a greater presence in this assembly,» without discarding the possibility of becoming a full member of the United Nations, «if this would be useful.» However, he explained, «it is an open question.» Currently the Vatican has the status of «permanent observer of a non-member state,» which gives it the right to speak but not to vote.

Lastly, Cardinal Sodano confirmed his support for the process of European unification.

For «almost 25 years,» he noted, «the Holy Father has invited Europe to breathe with two lungs,» that of the East and of the West. At the same time, the Pope has appealed to the Old World to acknowledge its Christian heritage, the cardinal said.

«We hope that this Christian patrimony will be mentioned in Article 2 of the future Constitution, which will address the values of the new Europe,» Cardinal Sodano said.

«We also hope that a new article can be introduced which states that the European Union makes its own the principles of religious freedom, recognizes the existence of the Churches and other religious communities, and guarantees their right to organize themselves in freedom,» he added.

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