Diplomat appointed top aide to Pope Francis

Pope Francis. Picture: AP
Pope Francis. Picture: AP
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POPE Francis chose a veteran Vatican diplomat as top aide yesterday, replacing the Holy See’s secretary of state who in recent years increasingly became a divisive figure in a church hierarchy mired in scandal and financial probes.

The Vatican announced that Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, a former deputy foreign minister at the Vatican, will assume the post held since 2006 by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal will remain in the position until then, giving Parolin, serving as papal envoy to Venezuela, time to prepare for his new duties.

Benedict XVI, who retired as pontiff earlier this year, had relied on Bertone as one of the few advisers in his inner circle. Bertone, a Genoa archbishop, had served the German pope for many years at the Vatican.

The Vatican noted that Bertone, 78, was retiring under a church law that requires cardinals who hold top curia posts to offer their resignations when they turn 75. Benedict had kept him in place, reportedly to the irritation of a rival faction of Vatican bureaucrats loyal to Bertone’s predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

A scandal during the latter years of Benedict XVI’s papacy involving the theft of papal documents and revelations of alleged corruption at the Vatican was widely seen as aiming to discredit Bertone. Some speculate that the scandal contributed to Benedict’s conclusion that he himself no longer had the mental or physical strength to guide the Roman Catholic Church. He stepped down in February, the first pope in 600 years to resign.