New Pope Reappoints Top Vatican Officials


New York Times

April 21, 2005

VATICAN CITY, April 21 - Pope Benedict XVI acted quickly today to ensure stability and continuity with the reign of John Paul II, reappointing his secretary of state and keeping leaders of the Roman Catholic Church's bureaucracy in place for the time being.

The moves came two days after Benedict's election, which followed a papacy that was immensely popular for much of the world. But one of the weaknesses attributed to John Paul was a relative inattention to the Vatican machinery. It remains to be seen what permanent moves Benedict will make.

When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the powerful head of the Vatican's office in charge of doctrine, he was an advocate of a strong centralized church, and sometimes questioned the need for the size of the church bureaucracy.

Today, even before his formal installation on Sunday, Benedict made a major decision by naming Cardinal Angelo Sodano as his secretary of state. Cardinal Sodano had served John Paul in the job, which is the second most powerful position in the church and roughly akin to prime minister, for 14 years.

Cardinal Sodano wielded much power in those years, carrying out delicate missions with foreign powers, traveling regularly with the pope and replacing an increasingly infirm pontiff at religious events. Given his prominence, he undoubtedly carried clout in the conclave that elected Benedict and most likely swung the votes he influenced to the new pope, Vatican analysts said.

The pope also kept Cardinal Sodano's two deputies in place.

The secretary of state appointment is generally for five years. Cardinal Sodano is 77. High Vatican officials are generally required to tender their resignations at 75, although the pope can ask them to stay on. It is possible, then, that Benedict may be making a change soon.

The other major Vatican departments - those responsible for bishops, the liturgy, saints, the sacraments, priests and education - are also headed by cardinals.

Benedict confirmed the cardinals who had been in the jobs but used a Latin phrase meaning, "until something else is provided for," suggesting they are provisional appointments.

One major gap remained: the leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Benedict presided for 24 years as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger under John Paul. He made the post one of the most valuable in the church, enforcing doctrinal rectitude on theologians, bishops and other Vatican departments.

Possible candidates include Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Angelo Scola, the patriarch of Venice.

As the days go by, Pope Benedict's official public schedule is beginning to fill up. After his installation Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, he will go Monday to the tomb of the Paul the Apostle, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, the Vatican said.

The visit is intended to express "the inseparable tie of the Church of Rome with the Apostle of the People," the Vatican said.

On Friday he meets with all the cardinals present in Rome, including those over 80 who were not eligible to vote in the conclave, and on Saturday he receives journalists accredited to the Vatican in the Paul VI auditorium, where John Paul held his regular Wednesday general audience.

The appearances are part of the ways, both large and small, that a curial cardinal is being transformed into a pope with a capital P: a pastor of the flock and the public face of worldwide Catholicism. Today, hundreds of people waited outside his old apartment close by the Vatican to get a glimpse of the new pope. He was greeted by cheers when he came outside, smiled and waved briefly before getting into a car to be driven the short distance to the Vatican.

On Wednesday, his second day as Pope Benedict, Italian television showed him in his white papal vestments entering the papal apartment for the first time, sitting at his desk, walking outside briefly, acknowledging the applause of his former employees on a visit to his old office, greeting people on the street outside the apartment.