Pope keeps old church leadership, for time being

Vatican's secretary of state, top bureaucrats retained for transition


VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI acted quickly yesterday to ensure stability and continuity with the reign of John Paul II, reappointing his secretary of state and keeping leaders of the Roman Catholic Church's bureaucracy in place for now.

The moves came two days after Pope Benedict's election, which followed a papacy that was immensely popular for much of the world. But one of the weaknesses attributed to Pope John Paul was a relative inattention to the Vatican machinery. It remains to be seen what permanent moves Pope Benedict will make.

When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the powerful head of the Vatican's office in charge of doctrine, he was an advocate of a strong centralized church, and he sometimes questioned the need for the size of the church bureaucracy.

Even before his formal installation on Sunday, Pope Benedict made a major decision Tuesday by naming Cardinal Angelo Sodano as his secretary of state. Sodano had served Pope John Paul in the job, which is the second most powerful position in the church and roughly akin to prime minister, for 14 years.

Position of power

Sodano wielded much power in those years, carrying out delicate missions with foreign powers, traveling with the pope and substituting for an increasingly infirm pontiff at religious events.

Given his prominence, he undoubtedly carried clout in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict and most likely swung the votes he influenced to the new pope, Vatican analysts said.

The pope also kept Sodano's two deputies in place.

The secretary of state appointment is generally for five years. Sodano is 77. High Vatican officials are generally required to tender their resignations at 75, although the pope can ask them to stay on. It is possible, then, that Pope Benedict might make a change soon.

The other major Vatican departments - those responsible for bishops, the liturgy, saints, the sacraments, priests and education - are also headed by cardinals.

Pope Benedict confirmed the cardinals who had been in the jobs but used a Latin phrase meaning, "until something else is provided for," suggesting they are provisional appointments.

One major gap remained: the leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Pope Benedict presided for 24 years as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger under John Paul. He made the post one of the most valuable in the church, enforcing doctrinal rectitude on theologians, bishops and other Vatican departments.

Possible candidates include Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna, and Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice.

Public schedule

As the days go by, Pope Benedict's official public schedule is beginning to fill up. After his installation Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, he will go Monday to the tomb of Paul the Apostle, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, the Vatican said.

The visit is intended to express "the inseparable tie of the Church of Rome with the Apostle of the People," the Vatican said.

Today he is to meet with all the cardinals present in Rome, including those over 80 who were not eligible to vote in the conclave, and tomorrow he receives journalists accredited to the Vatican in the Paul VI auditorium, where Pope John Paul held his regular Wednesday general audience.

The appearances are part of the ways, both large and small, that a curial cardinal is being transformed into a pope: a pastor of the flock and the public face of worldwide Catholicism. Yesterday, hundreds of people waited outside his old apartment close by the Vatican to get a glimpse of the new pope. He was greeted by cheers when he came outside, smiled and waved briefly before getting into a car to be driven the short distance to the Vatican.

On Wednesday, his second day as Pope Benedict, Italian television showed him in his white papal vestments entering the papal apartment for the first time, sitting at his desk, walking outside briefly, acknowledging the applause of his former employees on a visit to his old office, and greeting people on the street outside the apartment.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.