Gli Uomini del Papa: People to Watch in Benedict XVI's Vatican
With these words, the oldest Pope in 250 years began his ministry. But who will be the greatest enthusiasts, the most trusted assistants, of that ministry?
Just as John Paul II had Dziwisz, Rylko, Deskur, O'Connor, Krol and Lustiger, every pontificate has them: those handful of backbenchers who, despite having held a job in Rome or elsewhere for years, immediately rise to a higher station when that white smoke goes up. They knew the new Pope before the world came to him, and now he will send them to be his eyes, ears, and sometimes mouth, behind-the-scenes.
In most cases, they might not be moved (at least, not immediately) from the positions they currently hold. But it doesn't matter. Regardless of his day job, each will now be known simply as "L'uomo del Papa" -- "The Pope's Man."
So who are Papa Ratzi's men?
Josef Clemens, 57; Secretary, Pontifical Council for the Laity
Ratzinger's beloved secretary of two decades at CDF -- one of his tasks was picking up dissident theologians at Fiumicino Airport and driving them into the city -- Clemens is the closest thing Benedict XVI has to a son. Within a quick succession in 2003, he was promoted to Undersecretary of the Congregation for Religious, then nine months later elevated to bishop and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity alongside Wojtyla's student, Stanislaw Rylko. Ordaining Clemens a bishop was Ratzi's happiest day of all his years in Rome; Clemens was spotted escorting Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's brother, to his primo seat at the Installation Mass.
Georg Ganswein, 49, Private Secretary to the Holy Father
The new Stanislaw Dziwisz, Ganswein cuts a striking figure at the Pope's left hand. Clemens' successor as the prefect's gatekeeper at CDF (where he was on the lower rungs before his promotion), Ratzinger had no qualms about Ganswein speaking to the press as his personal spokesman over the past year. Given this Pope's loyalty to his personal secretaries, and his almost immediate move into the Apartment, Ganswein will remain at Benedict's side for at least the near future -- and everything the Pope sees must cross his desk first. Keep an eye on his whereabouts, they will say much.
William Levada, 68, Archbishop of San Francisco
Levada was one of the incoming Prefect's cherished employees at CDF. Upon his return to the States -- he was made an auxiliary bishop of his native LA at 46 -- Ratzinger was ever-loyal, working to move Levada quickly up the ladder; having him promoted to Portland at 50, and then positioning him as the only man who could "clean up" San Francisco after John Quinn. Either San Fran will soon have a cardinal, or Levada will be the American vanguard of Benedict's program in Rome.
Francis George, O.M.I., 68, Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago
It might've been acceptable before 8 April 1997 -- the day he was named to succeed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in Chicago, the most unexpected American appointment of John Paul's pontificate -- but if you don't know who Francis George is, you've got some catching up to do. A social anthropologist by trade (he has a Ph.D in it in addition to an S.T.D., teaching for a time at Creighton University in Omaha), George was Ratzinger's biggest American supporter among the cardinal-electors. When approaching the new Pope after his election, George began speaking what he called "a halting German" -- he speaks seven languages. Benedict replied in English that he remembered their conversation about the implementation of permanent norms governing US sex abuse cases, and will work to implement them. Throw in George's Roman experience as vicar general of his order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and his standing among the American bishops -- he is currently vice-president of the USCCB -- and we might have the new Chief Inquisitor already in our midst. But even if that's not the case, whenever he calls, Benedict will answer and listen.
Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., 70, Cardinal-Archbishop of Genoa
Genoa is one of those peculiar Sees -- like Baltimore or Detroit in the States, it's not the largest, but it gets a red hat because of its historical importance. And so Ratzi sent his much-valued Secretary of CDF there as a reward for eight years of devoted service. Bertone reciprocated in kind, doing his former Boss' bidding and condemning The Da Vinci Code on international television. But Bertone also has a soft side -- he was taking photos in the Square before the Conclave with random people, and he does soccer commentary for Italian television. He's still joined at the hip with his Prefect. Keep an eye relating to anything Bertone does in Brazil or Portugal; he speaks flawless Portugese, and he might well be Benedict's liaison to two of global Catholicism's most crucial bastions.
Angelo Amato, S.D.B., 66, Secretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Amato was a simple Consultore to CDF and a professor at the Salesianum when named to succeed Bertone in late 2002. But one thing set him apart in the Prefect's heart: he was the ghost-writer of Dominus Iesus, and the time had come for his reward. The first private audience granted by Benedict was to Amato -- this was on Monday, 25 April -- just as the first excursion the new Pope made from the Vatican walls was to his old office the morning after his election. As with the others, Amato enjoys Ratzinger's complete trust and absolute loyalty. Each of his predecessors under Ratzinger -- Jean Jerome Hamer, Alberto Bovone and Bertone -- received a prominent job and a red hat. Whatever Amato asks of the Pope, he'll get.
And lastly... cats.... Meow.
Joseph Ratzinger, the Holy Father Benedict XVI, loves cats. The story's been told that one morning, on leaving his apartment on Citta Leonina, the street kitties whom the Prefect would routinely talk to and pet waited outside the door and followed him, in a line, to the Holy Office. A Swiss Guard interjected, "Your Eminence! The cats are taking over the Vatican!" Could it be that, maybe, in lieu of the John Pauline kissing of the ground in a new country, he'll presented with a local cat to kiss? Maybe he'll talk to it for five minutes, who knows? It's just fabulous. So be on the lookout for cats slipping through the Portone di Bronzo.
Lastly, I want to thank the good folks at The Revealer, who have given me a privileged pew in St. Blog's Parish. They've called this commentary "pious to biting."
Biting? I'm really aiming for catty.