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The Diplomacy of the Holy See

Cardinal Bertone Defends His Record in Exclusive Interview With ZENIT

On July 19 Cardinal Bertone will speak during the presentation of his book about the Vatican’s diplomacy in a globalized world (“La diplomazia pontificia in un mondo globalizzato” published by the Vatican publishing house).

The book launch was held at the “Papa Luciani” center at Santa Giustina, in the northern Italian province of Belluno.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Bertone defended his record as Secretary of State.

ZENIT: Eminence: in this book you have written, with a preface by Pope Francis, what does it say about the diplomatic work of the Holy See?

Cardinal Bertone: Above all in recent times the Holy See has undertaken an intense and sustained effort to prevent war, promote peace and economic development, and to defend human rights and brotherhood among all peoples.

If we look back at the recent conflicts the Holy See has tried in many ways to prevent them and once they have started it has made every effort to assist the victims and to heal the wounds of war. It’s clear that in the last year both the Holy See and Pope Francis have made strenuous efforts to promote peace in Syria and the Holy Land.

The priorities of pontifical diplomacy are evident if you look at the table of contents of my book. From my own personal experience and the journeys I have undertaken I can outline the priorities that I have presented in various diplomatic encounters.

The defence of human rights, for example, the fundamental importance of human dignity, the need for an international guarantee of religious liberty, that is today menaced in many parts, the development of peoples on the basis of solidarity.

I remember especially the meeting I had with the presidents of Argentina and Chile, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Beagle peace accord, and also the encounter with the heads of state and government at a meeting with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, held at Astana in Kazakhstan.

ZENIT: Nevertheless, Eminence, some have been critical of the way in which you have governed the Curia. What do you have to say in your defence?

Cardinal Bertone: I have read these news stories and I have the impression that sometimes those who consider they know the truth prefer to carp and copy and paste stories without sufficient discernment.

An example of this are the reports about my Vatican apartment, with mistaken information about its size, that continue to be repeated in spite of my corrections on this, in a way that distorts my behavior in a way that has nothing to do with reality.

I would like to refer to what Pope Francis said in his preface to my book when he said that the yardstick by which the servants of the Church are measured is not that which is dictated by the front page headlines, but is measured more by the silent and generous dedication to serve the body of Christ and the good of men.

When it comes to matters of governance it is important to note that the Secretary of State does not govern in an autonomous and authoritative manner. He carries out the guidelines and priorities of the Supreme Authority of the Church and closely assists the Holy Father in his mission.

In this work the Secretary of State is supported by his staff from the various sections of his department, as set out in a number of pontifical documents.

These pontifical guidelines, for example the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, make clear that the Secretary of State must respect the areas of responsibility of the Vatican offices, congregations, tribunals, councils and other official bodies. The role of the Secretary of State is to facilitate the interaction of these offices, without infringing their autonomy.

ZENIT: One of these criticisms, ultimately, involved an investment in Lux Vide that you upheld. This investment also showed up in the report submitted by the IOR (Vatican Bank) on July 9. Can you comment?

It was a long process of study and discernment that started since 2009 and which came to an end in December 2013, when, during the joint meeting of the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals with the assistance of the Prelate and the Board of Superintendence (i.e. the main management bodies of the IOR) with a favorable opinion, I presented the proposal to collaborate with Lux Vide for its productions of fiction and movies of true biblical and Christian inspiration, to those with an educational background and members of ecclesial evangelization projects. This proposal gained unanimous verbal approval and was recorded in the minutes. The problem of studying the technical details of this financial operation didn’t depend on me but the managerial bodies of the IOR who would have had to keep in mind the purpose of the Institute, expressed in various ways in favor of the universal Church. Lux Vide is a relevant company in the field of communications in the film and television industry, having the characteristics I have said. I remember that the founder of IOR himself, Pius XII, had financed at the ‘Istituto Luce’ the production of the film “Pastor Angelicus”.

ZENIT: As the former Secretary of State, how is your relationship with Pope Francis and also with Pope Benedict XVI, do you see them sometimes?

Cardinal Bertone: Our relations are good and cordial. I last spoke with Pope Francis towards the end of May and we talked about the film “Pastor Angelicus” and he spoke about his life as a young boy in Buenos Aires.

As for Benedict XVI I continue to have a friendly and affectionate relationship. He had the kindness to invite me to lunch on the anniversary of my priestly ordination on July 1. We talked about the good times we had while working together and sharing our common concerns, both in relation to our work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and during the time I was Secretary of State.

ZENIT: Lastly, what do you do now with your time?

Cardinal Bertone:  I am convinced that a bishop doesn’t ever leave his pastoral responsibilities, so long as God gives me strength. My commitment to the Church remains the same, even after my retirement.

I am still a consulting member of a number of Vatican departments and I gratefully accept the opportunities to help out in some parishes and community groups to celebrate masses or participate in conferences. I receive requests for encounters with individuals and groups that ask my advice and I receive mail from many places, which I try to respond to. I also have in mind further publications and I also spend time in prayer and communion together with people around me.

About Antonio Gaspari

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