Pope Francis Faces Key Decision on New Vatican Secretary of State
The Vatican announced on Saturday that Pope Francis had officially asked all Vatican officials to maintain their current positions, but put them on notice that it might only be temporary. He was to decide later whether to confirm them or name someone else after a period of "reflection, prayer and dialogue."
Benedict XVI waited a full year to appoint Bertone as his secretary of state. Bertone, who Benedict had worked with at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was a man whom Benedict personally trusted, but he did not have diplomatic experience.
It would not be unheard of for Pope Francis to choose a trusted advisor or secretary who was not already part of the office of Secretariat of State; perhaps a nuncio (the Vatican's version of an ambassador) currently serving in another country, who could at least give the impression of real change.
However, given that the pope himself has never worked in an official capacity at the Vatican, many believe he will opt for someone more comfortable in the corridors of the Curia -- someone familiar with what took place under the previous papacy -- in order to bring an experienced hand to help him clean up the mess revealed by Vatileaks.
Here are some potential candidates:
* Cardinal Leonardo Sandri: An Argentine of Italian heritage like Pope Francis, Cardinal Sandri is most well known for having announced the death of Pope John Paul II to the crowds in St. Peter's Square in 2005, when he was substitute for general affairs in the Secretariat of State. Sandri has extensive experience at the Vatican, and the benefit of having been transferred out of the Secretariat of State in 2007, before Vatileaks spilled the Church's dirty laundry out into the public's gaze.
* Cardinal Fernando Filoni: Cardinal Filoni, an Italian, also served as substitute in the Secretariat of State, following Cardinal Sandri. He has a long and distinguished international diplomatic career, including a stint as Papal Nuncio in Iraq when he famously refused to leave the Catholic community there during the war. He also served for 10 years in Hong Kong and is familiar with the political and religious situations in China and Asia.
* Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco: Cardinal Bagnasco is currently the president of the Italian Bishops' Conference and widely recognized as an upright and highly capable administrator. In his role as head of the Italian bishops, he has managed to navigate the deep waters of Italian ecclesiastical politics, present a united front and avoid any embarrassments. This familiarity with Italian territory would stand him in good stead for the larger role of secretary of state.
* Archbishop Dominique Mamberti: Archbishop Mamberti was Secretary for Relations with States under Benedict XVI. Born in Morocco, he has had a distinguished diplomatic career in South America, Africa, the Middle East and at the United Nations. As representative for the Secretariat of State, he traveled to Cuba in 2010 and met with President Raul Castro to mark 75 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Holy See.