Angelo Raffaele Sodano, GCC (born 23 November 1927) is an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who has served as Dean of the College of Cardinals since 2005. He was Cardinal Secretary of State from 1991 to 2006. On 27 April 2005, he was elected Dean of the College of Cardinals. Sodano was the first person since 1828 to serve simultaneously as Dean and Secretary of State.

On 22 June 2006, Benedict XVI accepted Sodano's resignation as Secretary of State, effective on 15 September 2006. He was succeeded by Tarcisio Bertone, then Archbishop of Genoa.

Early life

The second of six children, Sodano was born on 23 November 1927 in Isola d'Asti, Piedmont, to Giovanni and Delfina Sodano. His father was a Christian Democrat deputy in the Italian Parliament for three terms from 1948 until 1963. After studying philosophy and theology at the seminary of Asti,[1] Sodano was ordained a priest by Bishop Umberto Rossi on 23 September 1950, and then did pastoral work and taught dogmatic theology at the Asti seminary.

He studied in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he obtained a doctorate in theology, and at the Pontifical Lateran University, earning a doctorate in canon law. In 1959 he entered the diplomatic corps of the Holy See. He served as secretary in nunciatures in Latin America. In 1968 he was assigned to the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in the Vatican.[1]

Apostolic nuncio

On 30 November 1977, Sodano, who speaks English, German, Spanish, French and Italian, was appointed titular archbishop of Nova Caesaris and apostolic nuncio to Chile, one of the countries where he had served as nunciature secretary.[1] He was consecrated in his native Asti by Cardinal Antonio Samoré on 15 January 1978. He arrived at a difficult moment, with Chile on the brink of war with Argentina over the Beagle Channel and Augusto Pinochet in power.[2] In 1980, together with Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, he tried without success to get Pinochet to allow the return of certain political exiles, and in 1984 he obtained, at the cost of a dispute between the Holy See and the military government of Chile, safe conduct for four members of the Revolutionary Left Movement, who had sought diplomatic asylum in the nunciature, to leave for Ecuador.[2]

In 1987, when Pope John Paul II visited Chile, Pinochet availed of the visit that the Pope regularly paid to a country's head of state to get the Pope to appear with him at a balcony of the presidential palace, although this was not in the agreed program. On the other hand, Sodano arranged a meeting in the nunciature between the Pope and the leaders of the opposition.[2] The following year, the Pope appointed Sodano Secretary for Relations with States, a post corresponding to that of a foreign minister, and on 1 December 1990 named him Secretary of State, creating him Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria Nuova on 28 June 1991.

Secretary of State

The two Secretaries of State: Cardinal Sodano (Secretary of State of the Holy See) with Condoleezza Rice (Secretary of State of the U.S.).

On 29 June 1991, Sodano became Cardinal Secretary of State succeeding Cardinal Agostino Casaroli who had retired on 1 December 1990. On 10 January 1994, Pope John Paul II named Sodano Cardinal Bishop of the suburbicarian see of Albano. Sodano retained his relationship to the church of Santa Maria Nuova no longer as titular but in commendam, that is, in trust or in his custody.[3]

On 27 December 1998, he wrote, at the request of the democratic government of Chile, an official letter to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that "the Chilean Government considers it an offence to its territorial sovereignty as a nation the fact of being deprived of the power to judge its own citizens" through the detention of Pinochet in Britain.[2] When in 2002 Sodano turned 75, John Paul invited him to stay on as Secretary of State, though this is the customary retirement age for heads of major Vatican departments. On 30 November 2002, exactly twenty-five years after he was first appointed a bishop, he was elected vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, succeeding Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Dean.

When Pope John Paul II died on 2 April 2005, Sodano, who participated in the 2005 papal conclave, was not generally seen as one of the papabili, the cardinals likely to become the next pope. This was largely due to his advanced age (although he is seven months younger than the cardinal who was eventually elected, Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI), and his lack of experience outside the Roman Curia. During the conclave, because Cardinal Ratzinger, the pope-elect, was the Dean, Sodano as the Sub-Dean exercised the duties normally allotted to the Dean in asking the pope-elect if he accepted his election and by what name he would be called. Also as the Sub-Dean and the most senior Cardinal-Bishop, Cardinal Sodano discharged the duties normally allotted to the Dean at the new pope's papal inauguration. At the papal inauguration, Sodano presented Pope Benedict XVI with the Ring of the Fisherman, and along with the protopriest Stephen Kim Sou-hwan and the protodeacon Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, was one of the three cardinals who made the public profession of obedience to the new pope.

Sodano's position as Secretary of State expired upon the death of John Paul II. Benedict XVI reappointed him to the position on 21 April 2005, despite the fact that he was past the customary retirement age. On 30 April Benedict ratified Sodano's election to the position of Dean of the College of Cardinals by the suburbicarian Cardinal Bishops, adding as was customary the suburbicarian see of Ostia to his honorary titles. At the same time, Sodano retained in commendam the cardinal-priest title to the church of S. Maria Nuova.[3]

On 22 June 2006, Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to replace Sodano as the Secretary of State. On 18 September 2012, Sodano was named by Pope Benedict XVI as one of the Synod Fathers of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Catholic Synod of Bishops.

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned, Sodano as Dean of the College of Cardinals summoned the cardinals for the conclave during the sede vacante and was the principal concelebrant of the Pro eligendo Pontifice mass on the morning the conclave opened. He was not eligible to participate in the conclave, which elected Pope Francis. At the inauguration of the new pope, Sodano, as Dean of the College, presented the Ring of the Fisherman to Francis.

Sex abuse cases

Jason Berry writes that Sodano, as John Paul II's secretary of state, "pressured Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, in two notorious cases," the Hans Hermann Groër case and the Marcial Maciel case, to stop investigations into abuse.[4] In his address as Dean of the College of Cardinals to Pope Benedict XVI at Easter 2010, Sodano told him: "The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers." Victims of clerical sex abuse interpreted the "petty gossip" remark as a highly inappropriate reference to their complaints.[5][6]

On 8 May 2010, the Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress published remarks made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in what was supposed to be a private conversation with newspaper editors. The Austrian cardinal criticized Sodano's "petty gossip" comment, and indicated that Sodano had blocked actions of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who was serving as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had intended to investigate accusations against Schönborn's predecessor Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër. Schönborn added: "The days of cover-up are over. For a long while the Church's principle of forgiveness was falsely interpreted and was in favour of those responsible and not the victims."[7][8]

Honors and awards

Foreign honors

Dynastic Orders



  1. ^ a b c "Sodano Card. Angelo". Holy See Press Office. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sodano, el contacto de Chile en el Vaticano in El Mercurio on 21 November 2004. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  3. ^ a b Miranda, Salvador. "SODANO, Angelo". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  4. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/opinion/the-pope-could-still-right-the-wrongs.html?_r=0
  5. ^ Reuters, 4 April 2010: Cardinal defends pope, denounces 'petty gossip'"
  6. ^ Cardinal tells Pope not to be distracted by 'petty gossip’
  7. ^ Reuters, 9 May 2010: "Cardinal accuses Vatican official of abuse cover-up"
  8. ^ Vatican cardinal attacks fellow cardinal for 'covering up' abuse case
  9. ^ Website of Portuguese Presidency of the Republic
  10. ^ Prime Minister of Malta Website, Honorary Appointments to the National Order of Merit Archived 7 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class received in 1997 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)

External links

Media related to Angelo Sodano at Wikimedia Commons

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sotero Sanz Villalba
Apostolic Nuncio to Chile
30 November 1977 – 23 May 1988
Succeeded by
Giulio Einaudi
Political offices
Preceded by
Achille Silvestrini
Secretary for Relations with States
1 March 1989 – 1 December 1990
Succeeded by
Jean-Louis Tauran
Preceded by
Agostino Casaroli
Cardinal Secretary of State
29 June 1991 – 22 June 2006
Succeeded by
Tarcisio Bertone, SDB
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Joseph Ratzinger
Dean of the College of Cardinals
30 April 2005 – present