Vatican official blamed for spate of scandals leaves office

Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:38am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The cardinal widely blamed for failing to prevent a series of ethical and financial scandals during the reign of former Pope Benedict stepped down on Tuesday, ending an era fraught with embarrassments.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, left his post as secretary of state, the number two in the Vatican hierarchy, and handed over the role of "deputy pope" to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, a 58-year-old career diplomat.

Bertone's departure is the most visible break with the hierarchy left by Benedict and comes as Pope Francis prepares to overhaul the notoriously secretive Vatican administration and its scandal-hit bank.

Parolin, a former Vatican nuncio (ambassador) to Venezuela, is known for a frugal lifestyle in tune with the pope's own preferences.

He was not present at Tuesday's handover ceremony, after undergoing surgery while visiting his family in northern Italy.

In his address at the handover, Francis made several references to the difficulties that marked Bertone's tenure as secretary of state, speaking of a "thorny" period.

Bertone was one of the most controversial secretaries in modern Vatican history. He presided over a period beset by scandals and intrigue and came in for heavy criticism and accusations of mismanagement.

But Benedict, who in February became the first pope in 600 years to resign, stood by him and dismissed suggestions by other Church leaders that Bertone should be sacked.   Continued...

Pope Francis (L) and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone step off a plane after returning from their trip to Brazil at Ciampino airport, south of Rome, July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi