Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Word from San Damaso

OK, so it's basically a fait accompli -- or so it seems -- that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, Cardinal Ratzinger's former CDF secretary, will succeed Cardinal Angelo Sodano as Secretary of State.

So much for Papa Ratzi's cred as a technocrat. Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The only question, it seems, is when. Four cardinals briefed that the appointment was coming this past Saturday, the 10th. It didn't, which has led several people to simply give up and not think about it anymore.

Word is that the Cardinal-Dean will be taking up residence in the Ethiopian College in the Vatican Gardens. Said to be joining him is Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the head of the Governatorato -- the government of the Vatican City-State -- and a former archbishop
of Detroit. Szoka's retirement is also expected shortly.

Now, even more interesting than the appointment of Bertone -- a Salesian with dual degrees in theology and the canons who's tipped to head the Vatican diplomatic corps... without having spent a day of his life in the Vatican diplomatic corps -- is who might be headed to Genoa to take his place. But that can wait.

What this will do for Bertone's cameo appearances as a soccer commentator on Italian television is yet to be determined.

Oh, and he can't speak English.

Speaking of the Stato crowd -- and we're obligated by blood to love them here -- a bunch of the alums got together last weekend to remember Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the San Damaso legend who ran the shop from 1979-90, on the eighth anniversary of his death.

In his Letter from Rome (the best piece of Vatican beat writing that most of you will, regrettably, never see online) Robert Mickens, Rome correspondent for The Tablet, wrote about a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Achille Silvestrini at the Church of the XII Apostles, where Casaroli is buried.

"'Pater et amicus' are the first two words on the large, shiny stone just left of the main altar that marks Cardinal Casaroli's burial spot," Mickens wrote. "The complete Latin inscription says: 'Friend and father to many needy youths.' The words, which the late cardinal personally chose for his tomb three years before he died, were to be a memorial to his work with many juvenile delinquents in Rome."

Mickens said that Casaroli "used to repeat a phrase that Pope John told him on his deathbed: 'Remember the Church has many enemies, but she is the enemy of no one.'"

Especially in these days, it's good food for thought.