- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cardinal Bertone, Vatican “prime minister”

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and effectively the pope’s deputy, is an affable conservative who earned a reputation for orthodoxy during seven years as second in command to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the then-future pontiff headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the church’s doctrinal watchdog formerly known as the Inquisition.

Before his appointment in 2006 as the Vatican’s premier, Cardinal Bertone, 73, was archbishop of the port city of Genoa, forging a reputation as a genial and approachable churchman alert to modern social problems. He is an ardent fan of the Juventus soccer club in his native region of Piedmont and has delivered soccer commentaries for league games for Genoese TV stations.

Cardinal Bertone led the Holy See’s campaign in 2005 against novelist Dan Brown’s best-selling “The Da Vinci Code,” saying that it propagated “a sackful of heretical lies” about the history of Christianity and would mislead the gullible.

He has recently consolidated his position as the second most powerful man in the Holy See. He was linked to the resignation of the head of the Swiss Guard, the pope’s army of pantalooned bodyguards, who evidently disapproved of the secretary of state’s plans to allow the rival Italian force, the Vatican Gendarmes, to share in guarding the pontiff at the Apostolic Palace, Vatican sources say.

Cardinal Bertone’s nomination was a surprise because it is rare for anyone who has not served in the Vatican diplomatic corps to become secretary of state.

Vatican watchers said his nomination reflected the pope’s desire to “underline the pastoral role of the Curia.” As No. 2 to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the CDF, Cardinal Bertone had intense contacts with the bishops’ conferences around the world. Pope Benedict XVI wants to give much importance to the relationship between the Holy See and bishops across the globe, say the sources.

Cardinal Levada, CDF head

In 2005, Cardinal William Levada, 71, succeeded Pope Benedict as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, becoming the most important theologian in the Roman Catholic Church after the pontiff and the highest-ranking American at the Vatican.

Born into a middle class family in Long Beach in 1936, Cardinal Levada studied at a Rome seminary and was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1961, then worked as a parish priest and high school teacher in the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In 1976, he began six years at the congregation he now heads, which is responsible for maintaining doctrinal orthodoxy and disciplining dissidents. He returned to California in 1982 as a monsignor and executive director of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. Four years later, he was named archbishop of Portland, Ore., and in 1995 was named to lead the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

On a constellation of issues such as abortion, divorce, homosexuality and priestly celibacy, Cardinal Levada’s traditionalism contrasted with many local views, and he condemned Mayor Gavin Newsom’s stance allowing gay marriage. California critics accused him of being autocratic.

One such critic, the Rev. John Conley, sued him, claiming that he was defamed and retaliated against after reporting suspected child abuse by a fellow priest. Then-Archbishop Levada publicly expressed remorse for wrongs inflicted by fellow priests and won praise from admirers for ushering stability as an administrator during his near decade at the spiritual helm of the San Francisco archdiocese, which has more than 400,000 Roman Catholics.

His appointment was widely seen as reflecting a desire by Pope Benedict to have an American in a key post dealing with the aftermath of the abuse scandal. He also has worked hard on relations between Islam and Christianity, saying that although the two religions “view themselves as universal and missionary, it does not mean an impasse but an opportunity to search further into the mystery of that faith to see how it resonates and relates to the other’s faith.”

An avid reader who speaks four languages, Cardinal Levada enjoys museums and classical music and frequently attends the opera.

Monsignor Gaenswein, papal secretary

Pope Benedict XVI’s youthful private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, has attracted attention for his frank emphasis on the need for Europe to preserve its Christian roots, as well as admiration for his striking looks.

Italian newspapers call the beaming 51-year-old “Don Giorgio” or “Gorgeous George,” and his high-buttoned black jackets with crisp white shirts are said to have inspired creations by the fashion designer Donatella Versace. As a fashion icon, he is in good company as Pope Benedict has a penchant for Prada slippers and Gucci sunglasses.

Monsignor Gaenswein is a keen tennis player and excellent skier who also has a pilot’s license.

The Italian edition of Vanity Fair has compared him to actor George Clooney, with the popular Chi magazine saying that he is “as fascinating as Hugh Grant.”

Last year the monsignor warned that “attempts to Islamize the West cannot be denied,” telling the Sueddeutsche Magazin that “the danger for the identity of Europe … should not be ignored out of a wrongly understood respectfulness.”

Monsignor Gaenswein also defended a speech Pope Benedict gave in 2005 linking Islam with violence, saying it was an attempt by the pontiff to “act against a certain naivete.”

Monsignor Gaenswein grew up in Riedern am Wald, a tiny Bavarian village. He was ordained in 1984 and is a doctor of canon law from Munich University. He came to Rome in 1995, and then-Cardinal Ratzinger asked him to join his staff. He is never far away from his boss, handing the pope his reading glasses and protecting him from the mound of papers on his desk.

Cardinal Tauran, Mideast expert

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 65, spearheaded Vatican diplomacy around the world as the Holy See’s foreign minister, earning the respect of Muslim leaders and heads of state for his knowledge of the Middle East.

After taking a back seat for a spell due to ill health from Parkinson’s disease, the French prelate was recalled by Pope Benedict XVI to head the Vatican’s Office for Religious Dialogue, which was reconstituted in the wake of Muslim furor over the pontiff’s September 2006 remarks at Regensburg that Muslims said insulted Islam. That office previously had been merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture after the respected previous head, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, was dispatched to Cairo as papal nuncio to Egypt.

“After the Regensburg speech, Cardinal Bertone realized the pope had made a mistake, and so they re-established the office as a council in its own right and to give it prestige and put Tauran at the head of it,” said Gerard O’Connell, a veteran correspondent for the Tablet, the international Catholic weekly.

Born in Bordeaux, Cardinal Tauran studied at the Gregorian University in Rome and entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1975. He worked in nunciatures to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon before becoming a Vatican troubleshooter in 1983, taking part in special missions to Haiti, Beirut and Damascus.

In 1990, he became secretary for relations with states, essentially the Vatican foreign minister. He opposed the recent war in Iraq and was credited with playing a key role in mediating with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic after the NATO bombing of Serb forces in 1999 ended a crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

In late 2003, he condemned what he called the “second class” treatment of non-Muslims in “many Muslim countries,” especially Saudi Arabia.

— John Phillips

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