Pope Is Man of Heart, Says Cardinal Bertone

Vatican Secretary of State Speaks to Press

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PIEVE DI CADORE, JULY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone says that the secret to Benedict XVI's popularity is his character, because he is a man of God who loves, and who speaks from the heart.



The Vatican secretary of state said this today when speaking with journalists in a press conference near Lorenzago di Cadore, the spot where the Pope is vacationing until July 27.

Cardinal Bertone was recently sworn in as the chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church in a ceremony took place in the presence of Benedict XVI on July 7. The Pope had named him to the post April 4.

The cardinal told the press how the Holy Father is spending his days of vacation: "The Pope is playing the piano a lot but he is also working. He has a great capacity to write a lot. He is writing the second part of his book, 'Jesus of Nazareth,' and a new encyclical with a social theme -- I don't know when it will be published -- and other things.

"He is a volcano of creativity. He is working on things like the message for World Youth Day 2008 and other things 'in pectore.' And he is drawing out and elaborating further themes he has already written about."

The extensive press conference included a variety of themes, including women working in the Roman Curia, reactions to three recent Vatican documents, the personality of Benedict XVI and the persecution of Christians.

Asked about women in the Roman Curia, Cardinal Bertone said, "We are designing new posts, and according to the possibilities, there will be posts that women could also take on."

3 documents

Journalists asked the cardinal about recent Vatican documents, which have brought much media attention.

Speaking of Benedict XVI's May 27 letter to the faithful in China, Cardinal Bertone hailed positive reactions among the Chinese people. He spoke of a bishop from that Asian country who had written to say that the papal letter is being meditated upon and studied. Cardinal Bertone expressed his hopes that the official and the underground Church in China would walk together toward unity.

"The Pope's letter has become an instrument of reflection, dialogue and comfort," he said.

Cardinal Bertone also commented on the July 7 apostolic letter "Summorum Pontificum," issued "motu proprio" (on one's own initiative). The cardinal affirmed that the Pope's expansion of the use of the 1962 missal reflects the Holy Father's desire to protect the heritage of the Church.

The Vatican secretary of state spoke of the June 29 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Catholic understanding of the Church. Cardinal Bertone said the document, in its honest presentation of Catholic teaching, shows how close Christians are in certain areas, and how far away in others.

"To have honest theological dialogue we must have a clear idea of the positions on the other side. This helps us understand the path we must take," he said. "This document is not a slap in the face, but an invitation" to more open dialogue.

Benedict XVI's patience

Cardinal Bertone also fielded questions regarding his experience as secretary of state and the personality of the Pope.

The 72-year-old cardinal characterized the Pontiff as a man of God and noted his cordiality and infinite patience.

"I have never seen him perturbed in meetings in the Vatican, when he may have had reason to be. He is very kind," the cardinal added, noting that he meets with the Holy Father for about two hours, three times a week.

Cardinal Bertone further commented on Benedict XVI's capacity for listening and showing respect, even to the youngest or most inexperienced of his collaborators.

Papal worries

Journalists asked Cardinal Bertone about the phenomenon of pedophilia, especially after Sunday's announcement in Los Angeles, California, of the largest court settlement yet in cases of alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy.

The secretary of state affirmed that it is a concern of the Pope, but also highlighted that the percentage of priests that have been found guilty of abuse is very low. The crime of pedophilia is not something that happens just with Catholics, but among other institutions as well, he added.

Cardinal Bertone said the persecution of Christians is another of the Pope's concerns, citing countries like Iraq. The situation of peace in the Holy Land and European values are also among Benedict XVI's worries, the cardinal said.

The Vatican official also spoke of Catholic relations with Muslims.

"We have begun a serene conversation with the Muslim world, which is continuing," he said. "We are on the path of open dialogue with the Muslim world."