Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2013 / 12:21 pm (CNA).- Outgoing Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, chose to step down in advance of his anticipated replacement date after going undefended against accusations of corruption, according to a Vatican official.
“[Cardinal Bertone] told the Pope he wanted to leave his post at an Aug. 15 lunch in Castel Gandolfo,” an official in the secretariat of state who asked for anonymity told CNA on Sep. 2.
His retirement was expected no earlier than mid-September or even after the Oct. 1-3 meeting of the commission of eight cardinals Pope Francis has called on for counsel.
But on Aug. 15, Pope Francis, Cardinal Bertone and the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, had a discussion while dining at the same table.
Cardinal Bertone brought up that no one defended him months earlier against accusations of corruption made against him by Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, one of the newly-appointed members of the commission to oversee the Vatican administration.
The 30-year-old public relations professional tweeted the line “Bertone is corrupt” on her Twitter account.
Chaoqui’s Twitter account – which was closed as soon as the news of her tweets became public – was in fact full of accusations against the Vatican establishment lead by Cardinal Bertone.
According to the Italian vaticanista Sandro Magister, Chaoqui has also been one of the sources of information for “Dagospia,” an online Italian news portal that specializes in gossip.
When Chaoqui’s loose accusation against Cardinal Bertone became public knowledge, it met with no consequences.
“The Chaouqui storm will pass,” Pope Francis later said, according to a source at the St. Martha’s House residence where he is staying.
No one from inside the Vatican or from the Catholic media spoke up in defense of Cardinal Bertone. So, during the Aug. 15 lunch, the cardinal let it be known that he had taken note of this silence, and notified the Pope of his wishes to leave as soon as possible.
This is one of the reasons why, the source maintains, the Vatican press release that announces the appointment of Pietro Parolin as new Secretary of State also makes special mention of Cardinal Bertone’s service. It specifically and intentionally notes that Pope Francis “will publicly thank” Cardinal Bertone in the Oct. 15 meeting with the top officials of the Secretariat of State, when Archbishop Parolin will officially take his post.
In fact, Pope Francis’ decision to announce the confirmation of all of the Secretariat of State’s top officials at the same time as the Aug. 31 appointment of the new Secretary of State was “a slap in Bertone’s face,” affirms the Secretariat of State source.
He says that “the confirmation of Bertone’s deputy, his minister and vice minister for foreign affairs and his assessor” can be misinterpreted, because “in this way Bertone appears to be the only bad one in the State Secretariat.”
And, this situation led to an impromptu outburst from the cardinal.
A day after the announcement of his resignation, as he presided over a celebration in Syracuse, Sicily, Cardinal Bertone told journalists that “an honest balance of my work must consider that the secretary of state is the first Pope’s collaborator, a loyal executor of the work he is entrusted by the Pope.”
Bertone also added that with the other top officials, “we worked as a team. There were five of us working, and it was a very united group.”
Bertone also explained that “it can seem that the Secretary of State could decide and control everything, but it is not so. There were problems we could not properly face because they were as sealed in the management of certain people who did not network with the secretary of state.”