Tarcisio Bertone

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His Eminence
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Cardinal Secretary Emeritus of State
Cardinal tarcisio bertone.JPG
Appointed 15 September 2006
Term ended 15 October 2013
Predecessor Angelo Sodano
Successor Pietro Parolin
Other posts Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati (2008–present)
Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church (2007–2014)
Ordination 1 July 1960
by Albino Mensa
Consecration 1 August 1991
by Albino Mensa
Created Cardinal 21 October 2003
by John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Bishop
Personal details
Birth name Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone
Born (1934-12-02) 2 December 1934 (age 82)
Romano Canavese, Italy
Nationality Italian
Previous post
Motto Fidem custodire, concordiam servare (Protect faith, preserve unity)
Coat of arms
Styles of
Tarcisio Bertone
Coat of arms of Tarcisio Bertone.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone, S.D.B. (born 2 December 1934) is an Italian prelate and a Vatican diplomat. A cardinal of the Catholic Church, he served as Archbishop of Vercelli from 1991 to 1995, as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was Prefect, Archbishop of Genoa from 2002 to 2006, and as Cardinal Secretary of State from 2006 to 2013. Bertone was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003. On 10 May 2008, he was named Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati.

Cardinal Bertone served as Camerlengo from 2007 to 2014. In the period between Pope Benedict XVI's resignation on 28 February 2013 and the election of Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, he served temporarily as the administrator of the Holy See and acting head of state of the Vatican City State. He was considered a contender to succeed Benedict XVI.[1]

Besides his native Italian, Bertone speaks fluent French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. He has some knowledge of English, although he is not fluent, and he can read Polish, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Early life[edit]

Bertone was born in Romano Canavese, Piedmont, the fifth of eight children. Bertone has stated that his mother was a determined anti-fascist militant of the Italian People's Party, and later a Christian Democrat.

He professed his vows as a member of the Salesians on 3 December 1950 and was ordained a priest by Archbishop Albino Mensa on 1 July 1960. He holds a doctorate in canon law. His dissertation was entitled The Governance of the Church in the Thought of Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758).[2] He served as Professor of Special Moral Theology at the Pontifical Salesian University from 1967 until his appointment as Professor of Canon Law in 1976, a post he held until 1991. He was a visiting professor of Public Ecclesiastical Law at the Institute Utriusque Iuris of the Pontifical Lateran University in 1978. He was commissioned by Pope John Paul II to assist Emmanuel Milingo, Archbishop Emeritus of Lusaka, Zambia, in returning to the Catholic Church in 2001. Milingo had left the Church to marry Maria Sung of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.[3]

Archbishop and Cardinal[edit]

On 4 July 1991, Bertone was appointed Archbishop of Vercelli by Pope John Paul II. He was consecrated bishop one month later by Archbishop Mensa, who had also ordained him priest. He held this post until his resignation in 1995 upon being named Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. Appointed Archbishop of Genoa on 10 December 2002 and installed on 2 February 2003, Bertone was elevated to the College of Cardinals in the consistory of 21 October 2003, as Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Via Tuscolana.

According to Bertone's secretary, "Bertone once decided to take a public bus to the Apostolic Palace. As the Cardinal in his long black cassock and red fascia strode on to the bus, the people, especially a group of young people, stared in silence. Bertone immediately broke the ice with his 'characteristic' smile. By the time he reached his destination the prelate had engaged the youth in a deep conversation on love, sex, virginity, and chastity".[4]

He later specialized in the relationship between social morality, faith and politics. He also assisted with the revision of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and undertook pastoral work in parishes. In the Jubilee Year 2000, Cardinal Bertone was entrusted by John Paul II with the publication of the third secret of Fatima.

Bertone was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. He also participated as a cardinal elector in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.

Cardinal Secretary of State[edit]

Coat of arms of cardinal Bertone as camerlengo.

On 22 June 2006, Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Bertone to replace Angelo Sodano as the Cardinal Secretary of State. He assumed the office on 15 September. On 26 June 2006 Cardinal Bertone was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[5]

Complaints about Cardinal Bertone’s performance as secretary of state began early in his tenure. He had no prior experience in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.[6]

Two weeks before entering office, asked about reforms of the Roman Curia, Bertone remarked, "After almost two decades, an evaluation of how the dicasteries are organised is more than comprehensible, in order to reflect on how to make the existing structures more efficient for the mission of the Church and eventually to consider whether all of them should be maintained".[7]

On 4 April 2007, Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Bertone as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church (or Chamberlain). The duties of the Camerlengo are largely confined to administration during the vacancy of the Holy See.[8] On 10 May 2008 he was promoted to the rank of Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati.[9]

After he was named Archbishop of Vercelli he "locked himself in his room all night and studied the life of Saint Eusebius, who was bishop of the city back in 345 AD".[4]

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned on 28 February 2013, Cardinal Bertone as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church was the acting head of state for Vatican City and administrator for the Holy See until the election of a new pope.

On 13 February 2013, at the last public Mass of Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation took effect on 28 February, Cardinal Bertone praised Pope Benedict, "We would not be honest, Your Holiness, if we said that this evening there is not a hint of sadness in our hearts. In recent years, your teaching has been a window open onto the Church and the world, which let in the rays of truth and love of God, to enlighten and warm our journey, even and especially at times when clouds gathered in the sky". Cardinal Bertone continued: "All of us have realized that it is precisely the deep love that Your Holiness has for God and the Church that prompted you to make this act, revealing that purity of mind, that strong and demanding faith, that strength of humility and meekness, along with great courage, that have marked every step of your life and your ministry".[10]

He was the second most senior cardinal-elector in order of precedence among the cardinal-electors who participated in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, after the presiding cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.[11][12] Cardinal Bertone himself was seen as a contender to succeed to the papacy,[1][13] although his chances as a papabile were thought diminished by the perception that he was a "potential scandal in the making".[13] At Pope Francis' inauguration, Cardinal Bertone was one of the six cardinals who made the public act of obedience on behalf of the College of Cardinals.[a][14][15]

He was a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for the Clergy, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples until his 80th birthday on 2 December 2014.


The Da Vinci Code[edit]

On 15 March 2005, Bertone was in the news for "breaking the Church's silence" and sharply criticizing Dan Brown's 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, saying the book was "shameful and unfounded lies", and that believers should boycott the book. Both Bertone and official Vatican spokespeople insisted that Bertone was not speaking as an official representative of the Church, but it was also noted that Bertone's high placement within the Church hierarchy and the fact that he was often named as a potential candidate for the papacy gave his words considerable weight, such that his comments were often reported by various media as an official statement from the Vatican.[16] In 2006, the NBC news program Dateline described his statement as "a high-ranking Vatican Cardinal called for a boycott of the film."[citation needed]

Church and sports[edit]

Cardinal Bertone suggested in December 2006 that the Holy See "could, in future, field a team that plays at the top level, with Roma, Internazionale, Genoa and Sampdoria." He continued: "If we just take the Brazilian students from our Pontifical universities we could have a magnificent squad".[17] Hours later he said "I've got much more to do than cultivating a football squad for the Vatican" and explained that his earlier remark was not intended to be taken seriously.[18]

Defense of Pius XII[edit]

On 5 June 2007, at a conference announcing the release of a new biography of Pope Pius XII, Bertone defended Pius against claims of indifference toward the Jews during the Holocaust. The Cardinal condemned this accusation as a "black legend" and "an attack on good sense and on rationality", which has "become so firmly established that even to scratch it is an arduous task". Although he admitted that Pius XII had been "cautious" in condemning Nazi Germany, Bertone stated that Nazi forces would have intensified its program of genocide had the Pope been more outspoken.[19]

Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy[edit]

On 16 September 2006, Cardinal Bertone, after one day as Cardinal Secretary of State, released a declaration explaining that the "position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra aetate" and that "the Pope's option in favour of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal."[20] He said:[21][22]

As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake—in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text—certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. [The Pope] sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions.

Comments by Patriarch Alexius II[edit]

On 5 December 2006, Patriarch Alexius II accused the Holy See of an "extremely unfriendly policy" when he said that the Catholic Church was poaching converts in Orthodox lands in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics. Cardinal Bertone said in response: "We do not want to engage in proselytism in Russia".[23]


In 2007, Bertone "blasted the media for highlighting the Vatican's views on sex while maintaining a 'deafening silence' about charity work done by thousands of Catholic organisations around the world."[24] He continued: "I see a fixation by some journalists on moral topics, such as abortion and homosexual unions, which are certainly important issues but absolutely do not constitute the thinking and work of the Church."

Proposed excommunication of drug dealers[edit]

On 14 January 2009, Cardinal Bertone suggested that the Church would consider taking much stronger action against drug dealers. This action might possibly include excommunication. He made a statement about the Church's alarm at the "disaster" of drug-fuelled violence on the eve of a trip to Mexico.[25]

Support for universal and free access to anti-AIDS drugs[edit]

On 22 June 2012, in an online news story article by Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service (CNS), it was reported that, in a conference in Rome on the prevention of the transmission of AIDS from mothers to children sponsored by the lay Community of Sant'Egidio (which runs the DREAM project, a free AIDS prevention/treatment program in 10 African countries), the Cardinal Secretary of State urged that full and easy access to antiretroviral drugs be made free worldwide (these are drugs, such as AZT, that can treat, and in some cases, can prevent people from getting, AIDS; they do not presently cure AIDS once it has infected someone). Cardinal Bertone acknowledged that the only way this would be remotely feasible, especially in Africa- where the efforts would be most needed and focused- would be through a collaborative effort involving aid groups, governments, donors, medical groups, pharmaceutical companies, and churches.[26]

Our Lady of Fatima[edit]

Cardinal Bertone came under fire by Antonio Socci, Christopher Ferrara, and others for allegedly manipulating the "third secret" of Our Lady of Fatima.[27] In a 2007 address on the release of his book (The Last Secret of Fatima), he emphasized the more private nature of apparitions, urged caution in accepting them, and said "the fullness of [Fatima's] message...touches the hearts of human beings, inviting them to conversion and to co-responsibility for the world's salvation".[28]

Homosexuality to blame for child abuse by priests[edit]

On a visit to Chile in April 2010, Bertone commented on the psychology of child abusers:[29]

Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia.

Gay rights groups condemned his remarks. The head of one gay rights organization said that for someone of Bertone's stature "to dump the blame on homosexuals ... says a lot about the current state of desperation in the Vatican".[30]


See also: Vatileaks

In 1988 Bertone was appointed to a group of experts that assisted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in negotiations with the excommunicated Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. In January 2009, Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication pronounced on four bishops created by Lefebvre as a gesture towards reconciliation. The same day, an interview on Swedish television was broadcast in which one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, supported ideas denying the Holocaust. An ensuing media uproar questioned why the Pope would welcome a Holocaust denier who had previously been accused of antisemitism. Both Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops, who signed the decree and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which dealt with the followers of Lefebvre said that they were taken by surprise, and were never aware that Williamson was a Holocaust denier. As the Secretary of State has direct access to the pope, and oversees the implementation and coordination of his decisions, many in the media questioned why Bertone didn't insure that an adequate background review was conducted, particularly as it would only have required an internet search. This gave the appearance of a disorganized curia.[31]

Bertone figured prominently in documents leaked to the media in which Bertone appears to have reproved the general secretary of the Vatican governorate, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, for reporting detailed evidence of nepotism, cronyism, and general mismanagement. Viganò was subsequently transferred from the Vatican to Washington D.C. as Apostolic Nuncio.[6]

Bertone blamed the scandal over leaked Vatican documents on unethical journalists and a spirit of hostility toward the Catholic Church. "Many journalists play at imitating Dan Brown," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in an interview with the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana. "They continue to invent fables or repeat legends." Cardinal Bertone made his remarks as Vatican judges were investigating leaks to Italian journalists of dozens of documents, including letters to the pope and encrypted cables from Vatican embassies around the world, several of which hint at power struggles among officials of the Holy See. "The truth is that there is a malicious will to produce division" among the collaborators of Pope Benedict XVI, he said.[32]

During and after the Vatican leaks scandal, Bertone was widely blamed for cronyism, failing to address corruption,[33] and failing to prevent many financial and ethical scandals under Benedict XVI.[34]

Financial irregularities[edit]

During an inflight news conference on his return to Rome from the Holy Land in May 2014, Pope Francis confirmed reports the Vatican is investigating charges against its former secretary of state misappropriated $20 million from the Vatican bank. The pope also was asked about reports that Cardinal Bertone mishandled 15 million euro (about $20.5 million) in funds held by the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. "It's something being studied, it's not clear," the pope said. "Maybe it's the truth, but at this moment it's not definitive."[35] This money was transferred from to a private company, Lux Vide when Bertone was in charge under Benedict XVI.[36]

Luxury apartment[edit]

Cardinal Bertone has reportedly angered Pope Francis with his plans to move into a luxury 604-square-metre (6,500 sq ft) apartment. According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, Cardinal Bertone has undertaken the lavish restructure of an apartment in the San Carlo Palace, a building located next door to St. Martha's House.[37] The cardinal is combining two apartments, one measuring 399 square metres (4,300 sq ft) formerly inhabited by the head of the gendarmerie and another flat where a Vatican monsignor lived, the article claimed. Three nuns who worked with him while he was Vatican secretary of state are also to live in his new residence. Cardinal Bertone replied that he was renovating the apartment at his own expense and the apartment is half the size reported. He said: "I am personally grateful to Pope Francis for having called me April 23 to express his solidarity and his disappointment for the media attacks about the apartment, of which he had been informed as soon as the article was published".[38]


Cardinal Bertone's retirement as Secretary of State was announced on 31 August 2013 and became effective on 15 October. Pope Francis designated Pietro Parolin as his successor.[34]

On 2 December 2014, Cardinal Bertone turned 80 and ceased to be eligible to participate in future conclaves. Pope Francis named Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran to replace Cardinal Bertone as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church on 20 December 2014.[39]

In an interview in 2015 Cardinal Bertone said that he was not surprised by the resignation of Pope Benedict, "I had guessed it, but put it out my thoughts. I knew long in advance, at least seven months before. And I had many doubts. We debated the topic at length after it seemed already decided. I told him: Holy Father, you must bestow upon us the third volume on Jesus of Nazareth and the encyclopedia of faith, before you sign things over to Pope Francis".[40]


In February 2010, President Lech Kaczyński of Poland conferred on the cardinal the country's highest decoration for foreign nationals, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Poland, "for the lofty merits acquired in the development of the collaboration between the Republic of Poland and the Holy See and for the work carried out in favor of the Church in Poland."

Cardinal Bertone also received the Gaudium et Spes Award at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in 2007.[41]


  1. ^ The other five cardinals were Giovanni Battista Re, Joachim Meisner, Jozef Tomko, Renato Raffaele Martino and Francesco Marchisano. Cardinal-Camerlengo Bertone himself along with Cardinal Re (the presiding cardinal at the conclave) represented the cardinal-bishops; Cardinals Meisner and Tomko represented the cardinal priests; and Cardinals Martino and Marchisano represented the cardinal-deacons.


  1. ^ a b "Staking a wager on the next pope". CNN. 
  2. ^ Zenit. Cardinal Bertone Prefers Activity to Study 15 September 2006
  3. ^ "Archbishop Milingo Criticizes Moon Sect". ZENIT. 27 August 2001. Archived from the original on 19 March 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Whispers in the Loggia. The Faithful Secretary 18 August 2006
  5. ^ "Presidenza della Repubblica". Quirinale.it. 26 June 2006. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Rowland, Inngrid D. "The Fall of the Vice-Pope", The New York Review of Books, 16 June 2014
  7. ^ CathNews. Cardinal Bertone Wants to be Secretary of Church Not State 31 August 2006 Archived 31 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Press Office of the Holy See RINUNCE E NOMINE, 04.04.2007[dead link]
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ "Farewell address to the Holy Father". Zenit.org. 13 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Cardinal electors – Conclave of March 2013 – Arranged in alphabetical order". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  12. ^ "Conclave of March 2013". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "One Of These Men Will Be The Next Pope". Business Insider. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  14. ^ Rolandi, Luca (19 March 2013). "Il giorno di Papa Francesco: La messa di inizio pontificato in Piazza San Pietro" (in Italian). Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate (Vatican video of Pope Francis' papal inauguration) on YouTube
  16. ^ BBC News. Church Fights Da Vinci Code Novel 15 March 2006
  17. ^ Telegraph. Vatican Wants to Play Priests in Serie A 20 December 2006
  18. ^ David Willey (19 December 2006). "Vatican plays down soccer 'joke'". BBC News. Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  19. ^ Catholic World News. Strong Defense of Pius XII by Cardinal Bertone 6 June 2007
  20. ^ Libreria Editrice Vaticana, "Traduzione In Lingua Inglesse" 16 September 2006 Archived 4 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Reuters. "Pope apologises to Muslims", 16 September 2006
  22. ^ Associated Press. "Pope 'sincerely regrets' he offended Muslims" 16 September 2006
  23. ^ Zenit. Cardinal Bertone: We Don't Proselytize 5 December 2006
  24. ^ Moora. Pope's Aide Blasts Church Media Coverage 1 April 2007[dead link]
  25. ^ "Cardinal flags excommunication for drug traffickers". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 January 2009. 
  26. ^ "Top Vatican official calls for free universal access to AIDS therapy". Catholicnews.com. [permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Bertone vs". remnantnewspaper.com. 
  28. ^ "Address of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
  29. ^ "Vatican 'clarifies' cardinal's homosexuality abuse link". BBC. 14 April 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  30. ^ "Vatican attacked over cardinal's claim of homosexuality and paedophilia link". The Guardian. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  31. ^ Sandro, Magister. "Double Disaster at the Vatican: Of Governance, and of Communication", Chiesa, 4 February 2009
  32. ^ "Denouncing leaks, top Vatican official likens journalists to Dan Brown". Catholicnews.com. [permanent dead link]
  33. ^ "This Growing Scandal Could Bring Down The Second Most Important Person In The Vatican". Business Insider. 20 June 2012. 
  34. ^ a b Vatican official blamed for spate of scandals leaves office
  35. ^ "Catholic News Service". catholicnews.com. 
  36. ^ Jerry Nelson. "Pope Francis Contemplates Retirement". Guardian Liberty Voice. 
  37. ^ "Cardinal's vast luxury apartment in Vatican angers Pope". Telegraph.co.uk. 20 April 2014. 
  38. ^ "Cardinal Bertone defends himself against accusations of luxury". Catholic News Agency. 
  39. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (20 December 2014). "Francis names new Camerlengo, interim leader of Vatican at pope's death". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 
  40. ^ "Meet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Francis' Former Secretary Of State". The Huffington Post. 
  41. ^ "Cardinal Bertone receives Gaudium et Spes award from Knights". catholicnewsagency. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Roberto Giannatelli
Rector Magnificus of Salesian Pontifical University
1 June 1989 – 4 June 1991
Succeeded by
Raffaele Farina
Preceded by
Albino Mensa
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vercelli
4 June 1991 – 13 June 1995
Succeeded by
Enrico Masseroni
Preceded by
Alberto Bovone
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
13 June 1995 – 10 December 2002
Succeeded by
Angelo Amato SDB
Preceded by
Dionigi Tettamanzi
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Genoa
10 December 2002 – 15 September 2006
Succeeded by
Angelo Bagnasco
Preceded by
Pio Laghi
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Via Tuscolana pro hac vice Title
21 October 2003 – 10 May 2008
Succeeded by
Paolo Sardi
Preceded by
Angelo Sodano
President of Interdicasterial Commission on Particular Churches
15 September 2006 – 15 October 2013
Succeeded by
Pietro Parolin
President of Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe
15 September 2006 – 15 October 2013
Protector of Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
15 September 2006 – 15 October 2013
Preceded by
Eduardo Martínez Somalo
Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church
4 April 2007 – 20 December 2014
Succeeded by
Jean-Louis Tauran
Preceded by
Alfonso López Trujillo
Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati
10 May 2008 – present
Political offices
Preceded by
Angelo Sodano
Cardinal Secretary of State
15 September 2006 – 15 October 2013
Succeeded by
Pietro Parolin