VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday tapped a veteran Vatican diplomat to be his top aide, replacing the secretary of state who in recent years became an increasingly divisive figure in a church hierarchy mired in embarrassing scandal and financial probes.
The Vatican announced that Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, an Italian and former deputy foreign minister at the Vatican, on Oct. 15 will take on the position held since 2006 by Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal will remain in the post until then, giving Parolin, currently serving as papal envoy to Venezuela, time to prepare for his new duties as the Vatican’s No. 2 official.
The Vatican noted that Bertone, 78, was retiring under a church law that requires cardinals who hold top curia posts to offer their resignations when they turn 75. Benedict XVI, who retired as pontiff this year, had kept him on, reportedly to the irritation of a rival faction of Vatican bureaucrats loyal to Bertone’s predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
A scandal during the latter years of Benedict’s papacy, involving the theft of papal documents and revelations of alleged corruption and power plays at the Vatican, was widely seen as aiming to discredit Bertone.
Pope Francis will hold a special audience on Oct. 15, the Vatican said, “in order publicly to thank Cardinal Bertone for his faithful and generous service to the Holy See.”
The incoming No. 2, a native of northeast Italy, began his diplomatic career at the Vatican in 1986, and served in papal missions in Nigeria and Mexico. He was posted to Venezuela as papal nuncio in 2009.
In a statement, Parolin pledged that he would give Francis his “complete availability to work with him and under his guidance for the greater glory of God, the good of the holy Church and the progress and peace” so humanity might find “reasons to live and to hope.”
It was during Bertone’s tenure that the curia was rocked by financial probes, including investigations by Italian prosecutors into whether the Vatican bank was being used for money laundering.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Bertone would continue to keep some responsibilities, including heading a commission of cardinals monitoring Vatican bank operations.
Francis also confirmed Saturday that other prominent officials will remain in their current posts, including Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s longtime secretary and confidant.