This morning, during a ceremony held in the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father welcomed the staff of the Secretariat of State for the occasion of the appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., archbishop of Genoa, Italy, as new secretary of State. He succeeds in that role Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Cardinal Sodano - who was appointed as secretary of State by John Paul II on December 1, 1990, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Casaroli - pronounced some words during the ceremony.
"Today," he said addressing the Holy Father, "thanks should be given not so much to me as to those who helped me over the years. Particularly precious to me was the collaboration of successive substitutes for General Affairs: Archbishops Re and Sandri, and of secretaries for Relations with States: Archbishops Tauran and Lajolo. All together, we have managed to work as a team, with a great ecclesial sense that united us in service, first around the venerated John Paul II and now around you."
Cardinal Sodano concluded his remarks by thanking his helpers in the Secretariat of State and members of pontifical representations in countries all over the world.
In a brief greeting addressed to the Holy Father, Cardinal Bertone expressed the hope that his past experience would help him "to carry out the task I take on today. I am aware of the heavy responsibility that this brings, and of the gravity and complexity of the questions which, every day, I will have to face. My only ambition is that of putting into practice the motto of my episcopal service: 'fidem custodire, concordiam servare'."
"The profound communion that binds us together in the shared commitment of service to the Church - and consequently to human dignity and peaceful coexistence between people - cannot but translate into loyal and faithful collaboration, reinforced for many of us by the priestly spirit and the pastoral charity that must always inspire us in our activities."
Benedict XVI also read out the text of his own Letter to Cardinal Angelo Sodano for the occasion of his resignation from the office of secretary of State.
"When the Lord called me to assume the mandate of supreme pastor of the People of God," said the Holy Father reading from his Letter, "I felt it appropriate to ask you, Cardinal Sodano, to continue to lend me your assistance as my direct collaborator, sharing my daily cares in governing the Universal Church. For this reason I confirmed you in the office of secretary of State, a role which to this day you have carried out with generous dedication and competence."
Referring then to the fact that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is now succeeding Cardinal Sodano in the role of secretary of State, Benedict XVI explained how "in such significant circumstances, I feel the need to renew to you my most heartfelt thanks for the faithfulness and enlightened competency, the dedication and love you have shown in working for the good of the Church alongside various Successors of the Apostle Peter."
The Pope went on to enumerate the different stages of Cardinal Sodano's service to the Holy See, which began in 1961 under Blessed John XXIII, recalling his work in the pontifical representations in Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile, and in the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, his appointment as apostolic nuncio to Chile and later as secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, until his designation as pro-secretary of State in December 1990.
"In these first months of my pontificate," said Benedict XVI, "I too have been able to appreciate the gifts of your pastor's spirit, ... the dedication with which you followed the daily activities of the secretariat of State and of pontifical representations in various parts of the world," and "the solicitude you showed towards your staff."
"Apart from expressing my own gratitude, I also wish to convey that of the people who, in the course of the years, have known you and admired the good sense, prudent wisdom and tireless zeal with which ... you have carried out your mission with single-minded concern for the supreme good of the Church.
"The Holy See will continue in the future to benefit from your contribution - and for this too I am grateful - because with the same enthusiasm and generosity you will work in the important role of dean of the College of Cardinals and as a member of various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of the Governorate of Vatican City State."
The Pope concluded by asking God for "physical health" and "joy and serenity" for Cardinal Sodano, entrusting his person to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.