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Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Power Broker Linked With Sex Abuse Cover-Ups, Dies at 94

ROME — Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an Italian who rose to the head of the Roman Catholic Church because the Vatican’s high diplomat, final energy dealer of the papal courtroom and deeply influential dean of cardinals earlier than seeing his status stained by his reference to the cover-up of intercourse abuse scandals, has died. He was 94.

The cardinal died on Friday evening, in line with the Vatican. No explanation for loss of life was given.

Cardinal Sodano served as secretary of state, the second-highest rating place within the Vatican, after the pope, for 16 years, masking an excellent portion of the preach of John Paul II, who as soon as described him as “my first and valuable collaborator.” As Parkinson’s illness and different illnesses debilitated John Paul II, Cardinal Sodano, together with the pope’s personal secretary, performed an outsize function in operating the church.

The cardinal mediated within the Balkan wars and vigorously opposed the George W. Bush administration’s warfare in Iraq, as soon as telling reporters in 2003, “We’re asking for reflection not solely on whether or not a warfare can be simply or unjust, ethical or immoral, but in addition whether or not it’s opportune to annoy a billion followers of Islam.”

However Cardinal Sodano is most identified within the church for the facility he usually exercised throughout the Vatican hierarchy, together with to dam investigations of sexually abusive monks and to additional his conservative and anti-communist imaginative and prescient of a church that put safety of the establishment above all else. In 2010, talking throughout a public Easter tackle, he infamously known as accusations of abuse “petty gossip.”

Francis, figuring out Cardinal Sodano’s sway within the Vatican, the place he had nurtured the careers of many high officers, was all the time cautious to indicate him respect, together with in loss of life.

“The passing of Cardinal Angelo Sodano stirs in my soul emotions of gratitude to the Lord for the reward of this esteemed man of the church,” Francis wrote in a word of condolence on Saturday. He added, “I recall his diligent work alongside so lots of my predecessors who entrusted him with vital obligations in Vatican diplomacy,” and credited him with working for reconciliation in South America, the place Francis, an Argentine, is from.

Angelo Raffaele Sodano was born in 1927 in northern Italy to Delfina Brignolo and Giovanni Sodano, a politician, however his profession and connections would grow to be deeply rooted in South America, the place he labored within the church’s diplomatic corps as a younger priest. In 1977, Pope Paul VI despatched him to Chile because the papal ambassador. He navigated, and critics say grew exceedingly shut, to the army dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in addition to to a charismatic priest, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founding father of the Legionaries of Christ, a distinguished and financially beneficiant non secular motion based in Mexico that fueled the church with monks, universities, media shops and cash.

In 1991, John Paul II, sharing his anti-communist zeal, made him Cardinal Sodano and shortly elevated him to secretary of state, a place from which the cardinal exercised close to unmatched energy within the Vatican.

Critics have lengthy argued that Cardinal Sodano abused that energy, and recognized him as a dominant power for the secrecy and malfeasance that alienated many trustworthy from the hierarchy in Rome throughout John Paul II’s preach.

Cardinal Sodano was “the person who, greater than some other, embodies the misuse of energy that has corrupted the church hierarchy,” Jason Berry, a reporter on the church’s sexual abuse scandals, wrote in a New York Occasions visitor essay in 2013.

In L’Osservatore Romano, the church’s official newspaper, Cardinal Sodano in 2010 known as the abuse accusations “unfair assaults” that have been “used as a weapon in opposition to the church” by its enemies.

He overruled efforts to induce Pope John Paul II to talk out in opposition to abusive monks, comparable to within the case of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër. The pope remained silent on that scandal, though Cardinal Groër’s successor as archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, mentioned that he was “morally sure” of his predecessor’s guilt. Cardinal Schönborn told reporters several years later that Cardinal Sodano “actually mentioned — to my face — ‘Victims? That’s what you say!’”

However criticism of Cardinal Sodano usually centered on his connection to, and safety of, Father Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ founder who engaged in a long time of molestation of kids and of seminarians, abused medication, fathered youngsters, and employed his order’s monumental monetary property — billions of {dollars} in line with some estimates — to purchase affect within the church’s management. These revelations, and Cardinal Sodano’s apparently benefiting from Father Maciel’s largess, solid a protracted shadow on John Paul II’s complete papacy. Pope Benedict XVI dismissed Father Maciel from ministry in 2006. He died in 2008.

“We settle for and remorse that, given the gravity of his faults, we can’t take his particular person as a mannequin of Christian or priestly life,” the Legionaries conceded in 2010.

Cardinal Sodano lengthy denied accusations of getting protected Father Maciel.

In 1998, accusations in opposition to Father Maciel crossed the desk of a robust German cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, who led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Religion, which dealt with abuse circumstances. Cardinal Ratzinger ordered an investigation, however opposition — critics say led by Cardinal Sodano — led Cardinal Ratzinger to desk the investigation for years.

Cardinal Ratzinger turned Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. A yr later, he changed Cardinal Sodano.

However for almost one other 15 years, Cardinal Sodano served as dean of the Faculty of Cardinals, although he had handed the voting age of 80 to take part within the 2013 conclave to elect a brand new pope after Benedict’s resignation.

Vatican analysts reported that Cardinal Sodano used his influence to learn Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected in that conclave and took the identify of Francis. However the cardinal’s affect waned within the new preach, which sought to confront, albeit with combined outcomes, the church forms that Cardinal Sodano had lengthy managed.

Francis has additionally taken vital steps to make clear the Vatican’s missteps in dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse, strikes that didn’t all the time mirror properly on Cardinal Sodano.

In Chile, Cardinal Sodano had additionally turned near Fernando Karadima, one other charismatic priest, who had grow to be influential among the many social elite of the capital, Santiago, and who had deep connections to the nation’s army regime. As early because the Nineteen Eighties, accusations surfaced of Mr. Karadima’s abusing boys, however Chilean prelates repeatedly dismissed the fees.

The reality exploded a number of years into the preach of Francis, who, disastrously, selected to consider his bishops over the abused, even accusing victims of calumny. The ensuing disaster caught the pope flat-footed and made him look tone deaf. Within the wake of the controversy, Francis modified tack and set in movement new norms for accountability and transparency within the church geared toward stopping additional abuse and holding to account those that cowl it up. Francis defrocked Mr. Karadima in 2018.

On his ninetieth birthday, Cardinal Sodano returned to his hometown, close to Asti, the place he was ordained in 1950.

“That is the hour of sundown,” he mentioned. “It’s time to say thanks.”

Anna Momigliano contributed reporting.

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