Pope Benedict XVI carried out a long-awaited reshuffle of his top team at the Vatican today, naming Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Genoa, as Secretary of State — in effect, the Pope’s deputy.
Cardinal Bertone, 71, led the Vatican campaign last year against Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, saying that it propagated "a sackful of heretical lies" about the history of Christianity and would mislead the gullible.
His campaign was taken up recently by other senior cardinals when the film of the book was released, despite the risk that this would only give The Da Vinci Code more publicity.
The reshuffle had been expected for weeks, but was reportedly held up because of behind-the-scenes doubts among some Vatican liberals over Cardinal Bertone’s reputation as a doctrinal hardliner.
The cardinal will take over from Cardinal Angelo Sodano in September. By coincidence both men are from the northern Italian region of Piedmont. The Secretary of State is the Vatican’s prime minister and also oversees its diplomatic relations.
Before going to Genoa, Cardinal Bertone was for seven years second in command to the current Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Inquisition, which enforces doctrinal orthodoxy and excommunicates dissident Catholics.
Critics said that putting a Ratzinger-Bertone alliance at the top of the Vatican hierarchy meant that the Church would be in the hands of "arch-conservatives" at a time when many Catholics, especially in the Third World, are calling for reform.