The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 1, 2013

With no pope, Catholic Church leaderless for now

(Continued)

As secretary of state, Bertone has had Benedict's unwavering trust, but his legacy has been mixed. He had no diplomatic training coming into the Holy See's most important diplomatic and administrative post, and critics blame the gaffes of Benedict's papacy and current state of the Vatican's dysfunction on Bertone's managerial shortcomings. The 2012 leaks of papal documents appeared aimed at undermining his authority further, by exposing the power struggles and turf battles that festered under his watch. In his last speech as pope, however, Benedict singled Bertone out for thanks.

___

THE DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS: Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The dean is the senior member of the College of Cardinals, the so-called "princes" of the church whose main task is to elect a pope. In one of his first official acts as dean, Sodano on Friday officially summoned cardinals to Rome to participate in the pre-conclave meetings, a formality given that most were already here. The first starts Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The dean oversees these meetings, at which the problems of the church are discussed, and has duties inside the conclave itself, including asking the newly elected pontiff if he accepts the job. But Sodano is 85 and cannot vote, so some of those duties shift to the sub-dean.

Burly and sociable, the Italian Sodano was Pope John Paul II's longtime secretary of state. As dean, he spoke on behalf of all the cardinals in giving a final farewell to Benedict on Thursday, thanking him for his "selfless service."

Still, Sodano and Benedict were known to have clashed when Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, particularly over the scandal-plagued Legion of Christ religious order. Sodano was a chief backer and protector of the Legion's late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, even though the Vatican had known for years of solid allegations that he was sexually molesting his seminarians. Within Benedict's first year in office, Maciel was sentenced by the Vatican to a lifetime of penance and prayers for his crimes. That same year Benedict named Bertone to replace the retiring Sodano as secretary of state.

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