Cardinal Bertone: Vatican secretary of state has pastoral task

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2013 / 12:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Vatican's Secretary of State is also a bishop, his diplomatic action must take into consideration pastoral and missionary concerns, the secretary of state emeritus has said.

“During those seven years, I worked as secretary of state with the certain conviction that I needed to imbue my post with pastorality and a missionary spirit,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was secretary of state from 2006 until Oct. 15 of this year, said Nov. 12.

He spoke at the Vatican's New Synod Hall at a presentation of his book, newly published in Italian, called “Papal Diplomacy in a Globalized World,” which collects his addresses given while head of the Secretariat of State.

The book's publication can be seen as an effort to make a “final balance” of the Vatican's diplomatic activity under Benedict XVI.

While secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone was sometimes criticized for his frequent travels, but he said at the presentation that “a secretary of state must travel and visit countries” because in addition to serving as a sort of 'prime minister', the office also is responsible for the Holy See's foreign relations. The Holy See maintains diplomatic ties with 179 nations worldwide.

While a possible reform of the Secretariat of State, within a larger reform of the Roman Curia, is widely discussed, Cardinal Bertone pointed out that “a secretary of state has the function of being collaborator, counselor, and faithful tool of a mission coming from the highest, and incarnated in the diverse and original personalities of the successors of Peter.”

Also speaking at the book's presentation were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States; Hans-Gert Poettering, a former president of the European Parliament; Fr. Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer; and Vincenzo Buonomo, a law professor and editor of the work.

Archbishop Mamberti said that Vatican diplomacy is always concerned with building peace and fighting poverty, and that under Benedict XVI there was a particular concern for the “right use of reason, which leads to a real experience of religious freedom.”

“Papal diplomacy, before being a vehicle for dialogue between civil and ecclesiastical communities, is 'first and foremost a tool of intra-ecclesial cohesion', a sign of that 'concern for all the Churches' that the Bishop of Rome has always demonstrated,” he said.

He further asserted that “the diplomatic action of the Holy See is always oriented toward a positive good.” Archbishop Mamberti explained that “even when the Holy See recalls some specific values,” such as that of the dignity of human life, it is not a negative claim.

“The Church works to instill confidence, animated by the Christian hope that is not merely optimism, as Pope Francis always reminds us.”

Poettering's comments focused on Cardinal Bertone's role in promoting European unity, underscoring that “the lack of a shared ethics has always been the basis of a weak democracy.”

“If Europe will engage this idea, it will have to acknowledge the public role of religious bodies, including the Church.”

Buonomo, who teaches international law at the Lateran University, sketched the evolution of the Vatican diplomacy.

He maintained that Holy See diplomacy “knows very well that the goals of justice can never have a definitive solution – there is a need to build it up daily.”

“Vatican diplomatic activity is not shaped to achieve compromises. It is mostly aimed at building activity at the service of the human person.”

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