Friday, December 30, 2005



Now this is interesting....

ADN Kronos, the Italian news agency, is reporting that the new front-runner to succeed Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Vatican Secretary of State is none other than the Pope's stockbroker: Cardinal Attilio Nicora, president of the APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which handles the Holy See's investment portfolio.

The succession to Sodano, who turned 78 last month, was already a heated topic of discussion in the waning days of John Paul II before gaining further fervor in these first months of the papacy of Benedict XVI.

The latter uptick is particularly due to a foreseen adjustment of the role of the Secretariat of State in light of the presence of the first head of the Holy Office to be elected Pope in almost half a millennium. Stato has unofficially enjoyed a "superdicastery" status as the curial clearinghouse since the days of Pius XI and officially since Paul VI's curial reform, Regimini Ecclesiae Universae. Of course, of the 20th century Popes, Pius XII held the Secretary's post for nine years, John XXIII was a lifer in the diplomatic corps before going to Venice and Paul VI spent a decade as one of two pro-Secretaries of State when Pius decided to not fill his old job after the death of Cardinal Luigi Maglione in 1944. With the Grand Inquisitor now Pope, the pecking-order of precedence is seen to be in for a change.

Nicora, 69 in March, has been Benedict's point-man on a study looking into what has been called the "simplification" of the Roman Curia, which the Pope intends to undertake deep in the New Year. There have been flow-charts in B16's study over the last few months.

The entrance of Nicora's name into a speculation pool which has included, among many others, the seasoned papal diplomats Cardinals Jean-Louis Tauran and Crescenzio Sepe and Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Leonardo Sandri and Giovanni Lajolo (the latter two currently serving as Sodano's chief aides) is surprising as the APSA chief has no experience whatsoever in the Holy See's diplomatic corps which, as master of San Damaso, he would head.

The cardinal spent most of his priesthood as a professor of canon law at the seminary in his native Milan, later rising to its rectorship. Ordained an auxiliary bishop of Milan shortly after he turned 40, most of his episcopate was spent in close collaboration with the Holy See, not as a curialist but as an officer of the CEI, the Italian bishops' conference. He became bishop of Verona in 1992, went back to the CEI in 1997, was elected its full-time vice-president in 2000, and was finally brought into the Curia to head APSA in 2002, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, the well-regarded former nuncio to Washington (and widow of Benelli).

Although the impact of the Cardinal-Secretary in the area of internal church politics is negligible, given the expansive outward focus of his dicastery, it is worth noting that when he was made a cardinal in 2003, John Allen placed Nicora in a group which, in the correspondent's view, "embod[ies] a throwback form of traditionalism that seeks to translate church teaching quasi-automatically into social policy."

And in one of those quotes which tends to stick with those who know the subtext, an aquaintance of the potential Secretary's said of Nicora late 2002 in the pages of NCR that, "If I needed someone to baptize my son, he wouldn’t necessarily be the man I would call. But to balance my bank account, yes, sure."

Take that for what it's worth.