I will be Secretary of the Church

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the new Cardinal Secretary of State of the Apostolic See and the closest collaborator of Benedict XVI.

WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH:- Was the nomination for Cardinal Secretary of State of the Apostolic See a surprise for you?

CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE: - To tell you the truth, the Holy Father offered me the office of Cardinal Secretary of State several months ago. After prayer and reflection I gave a positive answer to the Pope and he in turn decided to announce the news towards the end of June.

- Why did Benedict XVI choose a non-diplomat as his closest collaborator although traditionally a diplomat was appointed?

- The Pope himself could answer this question. I hope that I will contribute to show the spiritual mission of the Church, mission that goes beyond politics and diplomacy. But that will still mean that the Secretary of State must resort to all means in order to support the mission of the Church in every situation. Bishop Bettazzi, the former Metropolitan of Ivrei, my home diocese, advised me to be more Secretary of the Church than Secretary of State. I completely agree with him.

- Your nomination also abandons another tradition: so far the office has been occupied by diocesan priests. But you belong to the Society of John Bosco. What does it mean for you to be a Salesian?

- Basically, it means two things. First, it is the way to relate to other people, the way, which is characterized by big trust and steadfast optimism. The second thing is the great legacy of St John Bosco: faithfulness to every pope.

- Your assuming the office of the Cardinal Secretary of State coincided with the dramatic events in Lebanon and in the Near East. What is your evaluation of the situation?

- I completely agree with the stand of the popes and my predecessors. Benedict XVI spoke about three rights: the right of Lebanon to state's sovereign integrity, the right of Israel to live in peace with its neighbours and the right of the Palestinians to have their own country. The Pope made many appeals, explaining that you could not create a new order and build authentic peace if you resort to means of violence and weapon.
However, I would like to express my solidarity with the Christians who found themselves caught between two fires, and as it often happens in these suffering regions of the world, they pay a high price in these kinds of conflicts.

- You were the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for seven years. Cardinal Ratzinger directed the Congregation. What is the method of work of the Pope?

- I was privileged, and I consider it as a great gift, to be a close collaborator of two extraordinary men of the Church: John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The work of Cardinal Ratzinger was characterized by authentic collegiality and great ability to listen to people and appreciate the talents of every collaborator, even the youngest and least experienced one.

- Now you are again working 'in duet' with Cardinal Ratzinger. Will the Apostolic See act as great 'Sanctum Officium'?

- I would like to explain one issue: today 'Sant'Uffizio' is the name of a palace in the Vatican. It is neither a name of the congregation nor the method of its work. But the task of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with its headquarters in Sant'Uffizio Palace, is to protect the orthodoxy of the faith. Thus it fulfils a 'democratic' role, to use the term of the former Prefect Cardinal Ratzinger, protecting the faith of ordinary people who do not write articles and books and do not take part in talk shows. The Congregation co-operates in the mission of the Church, performing its fundamental role: promotion of faith. The experience of work in this dicastery helps to proclaim the Good News in its fullness, and at the same time it tries to focus on man, who is the aim of creation and salvation, regardless of his country of residence, culture and social conditions.

- Who is Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See? He is often said to be 'prime minister of the Pope'.

- The Secretary of State is a man faithful to the Pope. He must transmit his message and help him realize his projects. He is a collaborator who co-ordinates the work of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and is a liaison officer. He maintains contacts with all representatives of the Apostolic See in the world. He has numerous relationships and he is some kind of a 'transmission line' of the Pope's will. In one word, he carries great responsibility for the whole Church and it is to investigate the inner activities of the Curia and the relationships with international countries and organizations.

- One can get the impression that Benedict XVI prefers pastoral aspect to political and diplomatic activities. What influence will it have on the work of the Secretary of State?

- The Pope repeats that the Church always fulfils one mission: to proclaim to the world that the answers to the deepest questions of man, seeking beauty and happiness, are not ideas or philosophical systems but the Person - Jesus Christ who died and resurrected for our salvation. The Holy See acts for the cause of peace and justice in very corner of the world only within the framework and light of this mission, making use of possible means to reach noble objectives.

- What is then the role of the Apostolic See on the international scene?

- In the last century the popes encouraged every man to 'begin from God' in order to establish peaceful and just co-existence in all regions of the earth. They did not defend any interests of the Church but they defend justice and dignity of all people, in particular the weakest and those who must endure injustice and inequality. From this point of view we cannot regard peace as lack of military conflicts but peace is the fruit of the order, which God made for human society.

- The Vaticanists claim that you can be friendly towards media like John Paul II. Where from do you take this 'sensitivity' to the communications?

- The Church lives to proclaim the Gospel, this was the will of her Founder. In the beginning the means of proclaiming the Good News was the word, it was the oral transmission. Today we are using television. If Don Bosco had lived he would have used it. Anyone who uses mass media must speak only the truth, one cannot resort to manipulation. That's why, we, Salesians, have organized a faculty of communication at our pontifical university in order to teach and support every positive form of communication.

- Your Eminence, do you know Poland? What are your relationships with the homeland of John Paul II?

- I was in Poland for the first time in 1979, just after the triumphant visit of John Paul II to his homeland. I have always admired your deep faith and heroic love for homeland. Then I came to Poland several times, visiting many cities, including Warsaw, Krakow, Czestochowa, Wroclaw, Legnica and Lubin. I have been to Lodz recently. While preparing the visit of Benedict XVI, I met a group of priests and I delivered a lecture on the theological 'magisterium' of the two popes: John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I wish that Poland, rightful member of the European community, made its original contribution to forming the soul of Europe, being inspired by its Christian roots.

The interview was given on 13 September 2006.

Joseph Ratzinger and Tarcisio Bertone - Cardinal and Archbishop, Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for seven years (1995-2002). This German-Italian 'duet' ran one of the most important dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. These two hierarchs were also neighbours. They lived in the Vatican building in the Piazza Città Leonina, next to St Anne's gate, the main entrance to the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger's apartment was on the fourth floor, the Archbishop's apartment on the fifth floor. They had a magnificent view of the Apostolic Palace from their windows. Who knows whether they ever imagined that would move to that palace some day! And it happened so. On 15 September 2006 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone assumed his office to be Secretary of State, the second most important office in the hierarchy of the Roman Curia after the Pope.

"Niedziela" 43/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl