As he leaves the Vatican for his summer residence outside of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI voiced full confidence in his embattled Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
“On the eve of my departure for a period of summer rest at Castel Gandolfo, I would like to express my deep gratitude for your discreet closeness and enlightened advice, which I have found particularly helpful in recent months,” said the Pope in a brief letter dated July 2 and released to the media July 4.
“Noting with regret the widespread and unjust criticism against your person, I intend to renew my statements of personal confidence in you.”
In recent months it has been widely reported that Cardinal Bertone is the chief target of those leaking confidential internal Vatican documents to the media, the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal.
Pope Benedict highlighted the content of a 2010 letter in which he had declined the cardinal’s resignation upon reaching the age of 75 – an act mandated by canon law – stating his sentiments have “remain unchanged” over the intervening two years.
In the letter of January 15, 2010, Pope Benedict had warmly remembered the many years during which the two men had worked closely together.
These including seven “intense and demanding” years at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1995 to 2002 when the cardinal had “competently and generously filled the position of secretary” before being appointed Archbishop of Genoa.
The Pope further praised Cardinal Bertone’s “sensus fidei” and “humanitas” which, he said, had helped everyone “experience a real family atmosphere in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, united to a firm and determined discipline in the workplace.”
He concluded his 2010 letter by stating that is was for “these qualities” that he had appointed him Secretary of State in the summer of 2006 and so did “not wish to forgo” his “vital collaboration.”
The 77-year-old Cardinal Bertone is from the Piedmont region of northern Italy. He was ordained a Salesian priest in 1960. An expert in canon law and moral theology, his appointment as Secretary of State surprised some as the post is usually the preserve of veteran Vatican diplomats.
Pope Benedict concluded his July 2 letter by imparting his apostolic blessing and entrusting Cardinal Bertone’s continued ministry to “the motherly intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.”