"Vatican: the Bertone era comes to an end. Bergoglio has chosen his replacement.... Tomorrow, probably, the Bertone era will end..." ("Vaticano, finisce l'era Bertone, Bergoglio ha scelto il sostituto... Domani, probabilmente, si chiuderà l'era Bertone in Vaticano.") —Vatican journalist Maria Antonietta Calabrò, in an August 30 article in Corriere della Sera of Milan, one of Italy's leading newspapers
"New Vatican Secretary of State may be appointed soon... The move could take place as soon as June 29..." —Vatican journalist Andrea Gagliarducci, in a June 28 CNA/EWTN news report
Today is the tomorrow that many Vatican journalists speculated about yesterday, and, once again, the speculations have turned out... not true.
Once again yesterday, as often in recent months, journalists were eager to report the "news" that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone would "probably" be replaced today as the Vatican's Secretary of State.
Such speculations have been swirling for months, especially just before June 29, when some wrote that the Pope's decision on his new Secretary of State would be announced on June 29th, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. No announcement came then, and none came today.
Perhaps it will be tomorrow...
Still, however long we have to wait, it is true that, as August ends and the summer draws to a close, we are now "gearing up" for what promises to be an "autumn of reform" in the Roman Curia and the leadership of the Church.
And it is true that one of the first, key points in that reform will be the replacement of Bertone, who has been in that post since September 15, 2006, or nearly seven years now, and who is 78 years old (Bertone will turn 79 in December).
Pope Francis is about to act.
It is widely believed that the cardinals in March elected Francis in part to carry out a "reform of the Curia," in part because of the "Vatileaks" scandal of 2012 and Pope Benedict's subsequent resignation in February.
Now, August is ending, and on September 13, Francis will have been Pope for six months.
The time for action is drawing near.
So soon, the journalists will be right, the decision will be announced, and an era will end.
The journalists have not been wrong, just early.
"The nomination of Bertone's successor by Pope Francis has undergone a rapid acceleration in the past two weeks, following the 'clarification' on Ferragosto (the mid-August feast day of August 15, the Feast of the Assumption) between Bergoglio and the Secretary of State nominated by Benedict XVI on June 22, 2006," wrote Maria Antonietta Calabrò yesterday in Corriere della Sera. "The man most likely to be chosen to replace him is the present nuncio in Venezuela, Archbishop Pietro Parolin."
She continued: "The departure of Bertone is said to have been communicated on Tuesday, August 27, to the Dean of the Sacred College, Angelo Sodano, who was received in audience by (Pope) Bergoglio. And it should become operative 45 days after the announcement, that is, in mid-October. A practice that is followed when the successor is not present in the Vatican and must leave his place to come to Rome."
So in this reconstruction of events (apparently based on a source privy to the content of two private meetings, one between Pope Francis and Bertone on August 15, the other between Francis and Sodano on August 27), Pope Francis met with Cardinal Bertone in mid-August, discussed the entire situation with him, came to an agreement with him, and then shared that conclusion with Cardinal Sodano on August 27.
Also, the new Secretary of State, in this reconstruction, is not in Rome right now, and will be given 45 days time to make the transition, which would correspond to the choice of Parolin, who is in Venezuala, and not with the choice of the other leading "candidate," Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, head of the Vatican City government, who resides in the Vatican.
Calabro reports that Bertone requested his mid-August "clarification" meeting after the explosion of the "Chaouqui case."
Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, 30, an Italian public relations specialist close to Opus Dei, was named by Pope Francis in July to a new committee of laypeople set up to oversee the reform of all of the Vatican's various financial entities.
(Here, a photo of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui from her Facebook page)
Only later did Italian press accounts report that Chaouqui had been an active "tweeter" and that among her "tweets" (messages of 140 characters or less) to her group of friends were ones characterizing Cardinal Bertone as "corrupt" and claiming that Benedict XVI "had leukemia" and that that was the true reason he had resigned.
Her tweets about Vatican affairs gave rise to speculation that she had access to some degree of confidential Vatican information.
"I confirm: the Pope has been suffering from leukaemia for more than one year," Chaouqui tweeted in February. (Note: There is no evidence that there is any truth to this claim.)
After the tweets were republished in Italian media, her Twitter account was deleted. She then claimed that other people had had access to her account and that images of her tweets that had been circulating were fabricated.
Though some reports in the press suggested that Pope Francis ought to remove her from her new post, Pope Francis has stood by her. His chief goal: to increase the "transparency" of all Vatican financial operations, so that there can be no shadow of suspicion about the Vatican bank's activities, and he has evidently decided that bringing in lay "outsiders" with some oversight function should help to accomplish that.
But the Pope's meeting with Bertone was less about the Chaouqui case than about what type of post to give to Bertone as he transitions from being the powerful Secretary of State into a lesser role.
Bertone is said to have "lamented" to Pope Francis that he himself had been the target of the "Vatileaks" scandal, and also of the recent polemics over the Vatican bank, and even of the rather shocking arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, the chief accountant for the Vatican's patrimony (APSA), on June 28 by Italian authorities on corruption charges involving the transfer of large sums of cash into Italy from Switzerland. The Scarano arrest led two days later, on July 1, to the surprising resignations of the Director and Vice Director of the Vatican bank (where Scarano had at least two accounts, into which he deposited large checks and from which he withdrew large amounts of cash): Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, both considered, according to Calabro, "members of Bertone's trusted circle" ("considerati bertoniani doc").
In August, in order to defend his government, Bertone said publicly that he himself had been the one to initiate efforts to bring clarity and transparency to Vatican bank operations.
When Bertone met with the Pope, the meeting was private ("a tu per tu," just the two of them), Calabro reports.
But she goes on to say that Bertone told Bergoglio -- she does not say how she knows this -- that he would like to remain in some office, even after he resigns from being Secretary of State, just as the prior Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, remained dean of College of Cardinals (a post Sodano, who remains powerful in the Vatican, still holds today at the age of 86), after his resignation.
So Bertone, Calabro says, asked to remain president of the five-member cardinals' commission which oversees the Vatcian bank, also because Benedict XVI, just before his resignation, renewed Bertone in that post for five years, or until 2018.
And Pope Francis, in this reconstruction, is said to have agreed to this public signal of continued trust in Bertone.
According to Calabro, the Pope was prepared to announce this solution publicly as early as today.
But, the announcement was not made.
In another key move, Cardinal Bertello, president of the Vatican State's "Governatorato," last week obtained the replacement of his second-in-command, Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca.
Calabro wrote yesterday that Sciacca's successor "might be" Monsignor Fernando Vergez, a Spaniard, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, who served for many years as secretary of the Argentine Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, and has recently been the head of the Vatican's Telecommunications office.
That appointment was announced today.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.