A few days ago, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who served as secretary of state under Benedict XVI and at the beginning of Francis’ pontificate, told Italian television Tgcom24 that it was a gift and a privilege to work with two Popes.
“My greatest satisfaction has been my closeness to the Popes who succeeded one another, especially in my service as Secretary of State with Pope Benedict XVI and in the first seven months of pontificate with Pope Francis. It was a gift, a privilege,” said the cardinal.
However, he pointed out that something that has distressed him is his being unable to “halt the very merciless criticisms, in my opinion unfounded, against Pope Benedict XVI and against his first collaborators.”
Recently, Pope Francis appointed a new commission to oversee the Institute for the Works of Religions (IOR). Cardinal Bertone was the previous president of this commission and was discharged from his mandate before fulfilling his term. In this connection, the cardinal said in the interview that his substitution, together with that of the other members of the Commission, “I believe was also a physiological decision: having changed the Secretary of State, who over the last decades held the role of president, it was natural that I should also go, although it does seem that the Secretary of State will no longer be president.”
In regard to the management of IOR, the Cardinal acknowledged that “in past five-year periods there has been deplorable behavior, which projected shadows over the Institute for Works of Religion.” However, he also said that “in recent years a work of cleansing and administrative reorganization had begun, also with the new laws on money laundering and with the appropriate vigilance of the IOR’s clients.” An endeavor that has led to much transparency and that now “is growing with Pope Francis’ push and with the related commission instituted by him,” he said.
Reference was also made during the interview to the “much awaited reforms” of the curia, which it is hoped Francis will carry out in his pontificate. In relation to this, Cardinal Bertone said, “I hope so, because he has a plan, because from his experience as Bishop and Cardinal of the churches of the fringes and of his contact with Rome, he has matured the vision of the need for some changes.” He also admits that this reform needs much study and debate among the interested parties, “the particular Churches and the Holy See.” Moreover, he said that it is not necessary to hurry, and that time must be given to the Pope for these reforms.
Addressing the issues of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and Francis’ trip to the Holy Land, Cardinal Bertone stressed ”the multiplicity of meetings that the Pope has already had with representatives and the hierarchies of the different Confessions and Christian Communities.” Although he pointed out that it is necessary to distinguish between the theological dialogue and the fraternal dialogue, taking into account that the theological is more exacting. However, “we await this great meeting [between Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew] which will be a corner stone on the way, we hope speedy, to Christian unity!”
The Cardinal also said that “wounds can be healed, I believe with the impulse of this Pope who communicates joy and enthusiasm and life projects.”
And one of the most recent wounds which he referred to was the scandal of Vatileaks, with the theft of personal documents of Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Bertone recalled that period as “a period of great suffering,” especially because “of the lack of love for the Church which was perceived in all these actions and publications of documents that should have remained reserved, to make possible also an internal dialogue in the Church to correct certain behaviors.” However, he said that those difficult moments inspired a great current of prayer, closeness and solidarity with Benedict XVI and with the Holy See.
In this connection, he said that he hoped all this is finished and is a page that has already been turned. “Time, the atmosphere and the network of relations has changed a lot,” the cardinal said. “I see that there is great confidence reigning within the Church.”
Cardinal Bertone added that every now and then he sees the Pope Emeritus, and they frequently speak on the telephone. The last time he saw him was Dec. 26, when Benedict XVI went to his apartment to dine together. “He was in perfect form, physically and intellectually, always very vivacious, very lucid and always gifted with a formidable memory.”
In regard to his future, Cardinal Bertone said that he is thinking of publishing a book on faith and sport, and also his Memoirs. “I have a very rich archive, so that I can see again, go over again those years with an objective documentation of the events that took place, and give a re-reading which might be useful to put again in their place some interpretations that perhaps, have gone outside the lines.”