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The powerful Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former right-hand man of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has died

Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was Secretary of State under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XV, as well as Apostolic Nuncio to Chile during the years of the dictatorship and accused of covering up sexual abusedied Friday night in Rome at the age of 94.

The Cardinal, who He was one of the most powerful men in the Vaticanhad been hospitalized for a long time in a Roman clinic for complications after contracting covid-19, the Vatican media confirmed.

Pope Francis remembered this “esteemed man of the Church, who lived his priesthood with generosity (…) at the service of the Holy See,” in a telegram sent to the family and published by the Vatican.

Born in Isola d’Asti, in the Piedmont region (northern Italy) on November 23, 1927, he was Secretary of State from 1991 under John Paul II until September 15, 2006, when Benedict XVI accepted his resignation while that on December 21, 2019 he ceased to be the dean of the College of Cardinals.

Before becoming Secretary of State, Sodano had an intense diplomatic career with positions in the Apostolic Nunciature in Ecuador and later in Uruguay. In 1968 he returned to Rome, called by then Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli to deal with the Holy See’s relations with European states.

Sodano, with Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010. Photo: AFP

In 1977 he was appointed nuncio in Chile, a country under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet -with whom he maintained a very tolerant attitude despite the serious violations of human rights- and was the architect of the trip that John Paul II made to the country in 1987.

The cardinal was accused in Chile of having covered up the abuse of minors committed by the priest Fernando Karadima, with whom he had a close relationship, in addition to not reporting the complaints of the victims as well as putting a good word to promote as bishops those who They covered up the case.

One of Karadima’s victims, Chilean Juan Carlos Cruz, upon hearing the news, wrote on social media that “he was a man who did so much harm to so many people and covered up years of abuse in Chile and in the world.”

In addition, he was a strong supporter of Reverend Marcial Maciel, the late Mexican founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order.

Maciel’s clerical career was discredited both for his pederasty and for the sect-like practices he imposed on members of the order. An internal investigation ultimately identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians in the order who sexually abused minors over some eight decades.

For years, when he was Secretary of State under John Paul II, Sodano prevented the Vatican from investigating sexual abuse allegations against Maciel. The Holy See had evidence dating back decades that the founder of the religious order, an organization favored by John Paul II for producing so many priests, was a drug addict and child molester.

Mediation between Chile and Argentina

Sodano is credited with the successful mediation by the Vatican in 1978 between Chile and Argentina for the resolution of the territorial dispute of the Beagle Channel.

After ten years as nuncio in Chile, in 1988, John Paul II called him to replace Cardinal Achille Silvestini as Secretary of the then Council for Public Affairs of the Church.

Angelo Sodano, a cardinal involved in controversy.  Photo.  AFP

Angelo Sodano, a cardinal involved in controversy. Photo. AFP

A year later, the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, came into force, and Sodano assumed the title of Secretary for Relations with States, dedicating himself in particular to the Pontifical Commission for Russia, of which he was president.

He represented the Holy See at various international meetings such as the conferences of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In December 1990, he assumed the position of Pro-Secretary of State and became Secretary of State on June 29, 1991, one day after being named Cardinal.

Accompanied Wojtyla on 54 international trips and remained in office for a year after the election of Benedict XVI in 2005, to become the dean of the college of cardinals for several years.

In 2010, the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, accused Sodano of having offended the victims of sexual abuse and of having covered up at the time the investigation of the crimes committed by the then head of the Viennese diocese, Hans Hermann Groër.

Source: AFP, EFE and AP

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