The solidarity between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone goes back a long way and it certainly appears to have continued—at least for the first few years of Benedict’s papacy—in the time following the “Message of Fatima” controversy.
After being elected pope in April, 2005 and taking his place as successor of John Paul II as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Ratzinger as “Pope Benedict XVI” quickly appointed Cardinal Bertone to replace Fatima co-conspirator Angelo Sodano as the Cardinal Secretary of State. On April 4, 2007, Benedict also appointed Bertone as his Camerlengo to administrate the duty of the Pope in the case of a vacancy of the papacy. Benedict has since made decisions that indicate Bertone could be (or once was) his choice for successor, and both men have at times appeared to be stacking and massaging the Red Hats in Bertone’s favor for the next (final?) conclave. This was noted in the May 13, 2011National Catholic Reporter article, “A Triptych on Benedict’s Papacy, and Hints of What Lies Beyond,” when NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen Jr. spoke of the shake-up inside the Roman Curia (the Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Vatican and, together with the pope, the central governing body of the Catholic Church) in which Italian Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu was appointed the Substitute for General Affairs by Pope Benedict XVI.
Becciu, who replaced Archbishop Fernando Filoni for the job, seemed at first an odd selection to Vatican insiders. “Given how difficult it is to master the role [of Substitute], many observers found it curious that Filoni would be shipped out after less than four years, to be replaced by someone in Becciu who has no previous experience at all working inside the Vatican,” observed the NCR.[i] But then the nail was hit on the head when the news service added, “When the dust settles, the most obvious beneficiary of these moves would seem to be Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State, who will not have to be concerned about the new substitute forming a rival center of power.”[ii] The job of the Substitute for General Affairs has been described as the most complicated and demanding responsibility in the Roman Curia due to the staggering amount of concerns the Substitute must carry on a daily basis. Roughly compared to a White House Chief of Staff, the Substitute meets with the Pontiff usually once per day to administer Vatican affairs and also regularly reports to the Cardinal Secretary of State (currently Cardinal Bertone). The organizational “success or failure of a papacy often rests on his shoulders,” adds the NCR.
And those who have handled the office well over the years “have been the stuff of legend: Giovanni Battista Montini, for instance, was the substitute under Pius XII from 1937 to 1953, and went on to become Pope Paul VI; Giovanni Benelli, who was Paul’s own substitute from 1967 to 1977, was widely understood to be the power behind the throne” (emphasis added).[iii]
But if positioning a Vatican novice in the role of Substitute in order not to challenge future papal possibilities for the Italian Cardinal Bertone was telling, Pope Benedict even more-so aligned the group-type from which the next pope will come, when on January 6, 2012 he named twenty-two new cardinals, most of them Europeans, primarily Italians already holding key Vatican stations. By elevating these advisors to the Sacred College of Cardinals at a February 18th ceremony in Rome, the German pope certified that “Europeans will now number over half of all cardinal-electors (67 out of 125), and nearly a quarter of all voters in a conclave will be Italian,” reported Newsmax.com.[iv] As a result, Benedict seemed to put his definitive stamp on an Italian successor and lined up those who could give Bertone the so-called apostolic chair of Saint Peter. And evidently this wasn’t Benedict’s idea alone. Most Vatican experts “put the large number of Italian appointments down to the influence of the Pope’s deputy, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, whose hand in these nominations, they say, is clearly visible.”[v]
Also interesting in lieu of recent reports regarding Pope Benedict’s health (and news that he might step down in April) was the February timing of the consistory for the new cardinals to receive their red hats, rings, and titular assignments in Rome. As we hope to have Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here in print by mid April, we can only speculate why the February date was chosen. Of course the scheduling around the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter could be cited, but some who work with the pope had been pushing him for a June (Feasts of St. Peter and Paul) or November (Feast of Christ the King) consistory, and more often than not Benedict has held consistories in November (2007 and 2010). So what was the hurry? If Pope Benedict truly is considering a 2012 departure and wants to significantly influence the papal conclave toward an Italian, the date and timing in February made perfect sense as the best and final opportunity to stack the sacred deck.
Of course, just when we thought it couldn’t get any more obvious, another—and this time unprecedented—move to consolidate his power (and which also raises the question of a third contender for the throne of St. Peter) was made by Bertone himself. It followed the October 24, 2011, document, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” which amounted to a call by the Vatican for a World Political and Financial Authority. Published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the media was quick—inside and outside Christianity—to see the dark side of socialism raising its head, not to mention prophetic implications of the paper’s call for a Global Authority seated inside the United Nations. In a chapter of our upcoming book Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Herewe explain how this new unsettling directive attempts to devise a “moral” mandate for establishing “a global public authority” and “a central world bank” that would oversee individual and world pecuniary institutions through subjugation to a new global power made “at the cost of a gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world authority and to regional authorities” (emphasis added).[vi] The document was addressed at the 2011 G20 Summit in Cannes in comments by President Barack Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, but nothing came of it there due to what Cardinal Bertone did just ten days later. And this is where things start getting interesting, as some soothsayers were already predicting that the author of the document, Peter Turkson of Ghana (Peter the Roman?) could be the next pope, as he is considered papabile by the College of Cardinals.
Following the election of America’s first black president in Obama, analysts around the world began speculating that perhaps Rome would follow suit and roll out the red carpet for a black pope, the first in fifteen hundred years, in somebody like Turkson. Cardinal Francis Arinze, whom Ronald L. Conte Jr. believes will be the next pope and fulfill “The Prophecy of the Popes” by taking the name Pius XIII, is also a black man, an Igbo Nigerian considered papabile since before the 2005 conclave that elected Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). “The election of Barack Obama as the first African-American US President could pave the way for the election of [a] black Pope, according to a leading black American Catholic,” wrote the Times Online in 2008. “Wilton Daniel Gregory, 60, the Archbishop of Atlanta, said that in the past Pope Benedict XVI had himself suggested that the election of a black pontiff would ‘send a splendid signal to the world’ about the universal Church.”[vii] The Associated Press agreed. “The pope has appointed Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana to head the Vatican’s justice and peace office, a high-profile post that cements his reputation as a possible future papal candidate… Turkson told reporters three weeks ago there was no reason there couldn’t be a black pope, particularly after Barack Obama was elected U.S. president.”[viii] Given that Turkson is popular in some circles, here is how the National Catholic Reporter heralded the release of his document on Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in their October 28, 2011, headline: A Papal Contender Grabs the Spotlight:
Rome saw a striking coincidence this week, which could be either simple luck or a sign of things to come. There were two big-ticket Vatican news flashes, Monday’s note on reform of the international economy and Thursday’s summit of religious leaders in Assisi. In both cases, the same Vatican official was a prime mover: Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.Turkson, still young in church terms at 63, was the chief organizer of the Assisi gathering, just as he was the top signatory on the document blasting “neo-liberal” ideologies and calling for a “true world political authority” to regulate the economy. During Vatican press conferences to present both, Turkson was the star attraction each time.Can anyone say, papabile?[ix]
Only a week following the National Catholic Reporter celebration, however, and only ten days after Turkson released his document calling for a global financial authority, an emergency summit at the Vatican was called by…you guessed it…the Secretariat of State—Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. And this time he wasn’t taking any prisoners. Bertone blasted the document by Turkson and laid down a new set of laws. From that day forward, he ordered, any new Vatican text would have to be authorized in advance by himself. The popular Chiesa News in Rome said of the power play:
Precisely when the G20 summit in Cannes was coming to its weak and uncertain conclusion, on that same Friday, November 4 at the Vatican, a smaller summit convened in the secretariat of state… In the hot seat was the [Turkson] document on the global financial crisis released ten days earlier by the pontifical council for justice and peace… The secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, complained that he had not known about it until the last moment. And precisely for this reason he had called that meeting in the secretariat of state. The conclusion of the summit was that this binding order would be transmitted to all of the offices of the curia: from that point on, nothing in writing would be released unless it had been inspected and authorized by the secretariat of state.[x]
While Bertone convinced some Vatican watchers that his overreaching motives had to do with protecting the Holy See from confusion by claiming that he had been in the dark and thus side-swiped by the release of the document (a case Chiesa News thoroughly debunked), others saw in it another giant step in Bertone carefully solidifying his powerbase in Rome. They also imagined that old enemy the Freemasons having something to do with it. “It would seem that the dark forces in the Vatican are making their moves to seize control of the Catholic Church,” wrote Catholic Jew Aron Ben Gilad. “They are using the recent document of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace on the global financial crisis as the excuse to seize autocratic control of all the congregations of the curia and putting them under the control of Cardinal Bertone and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Whatever the merits or demerits of this document is not the important question, but its use as an instrument for ecclesiastical masonry to take control of the Roman Curia” (emphasis added).[xi] Top Vatican watcher and journalist Andrea Tornielli had stated as much earlier, documenting how Bertone had been consolidating his influence in the Vatican:
…through a number of actions: he appointed bishops who are well known to him and friends in key roles, especially in positions involving the management and control of the Holy See’s finances. The last individual appointed, was the Bishop of Alexandria Giuseppe Versaldinew, to the position of President of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See… On the other hand, Bertone has done away with prelates who had moved against him in some way or another, such as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who had left the Government office to become Nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, or Bishop Vincenzo di Mauro, who left the Office of Economic Affairs to become Archbishop of Vigevano.[xii]
Given what we have documented in the last few entries, one could think with some certainty that Bertone is thus a shoo-in for the end-times role of Petrus Romanus. However, as we move into 2012, cracks are suddenly appearing in the foundation of his sand castle, and not everybody in the Curia—including Pope Benedict XVI, himself—may wind up as eager to support him as they once were. So who else is rising on the radar as contender for the Final Pope?
In the next entry we consider dark horses on the horizon...