Vatican Watch: The Pope’s Number Two Guy

The inner workings of the Vatican are fascinating to those of us who spend so much time in Rome. It is one of the few powerful worldwide organizations that still keeps plenty of secrets and mysteries close to the vest. This week Time Magazine profiles Pope Benedict’s “right hand man,” new Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a native of Piedmont who Time’s Jeff Israely says, “doesn’t have the guarded air of those who tend to rise to the heights of Vatican power. He smiles easily. He laughs out loud.”

Israely writes that Benedict and Bertone have a special relationship: “It’s the kind of affinity–similar to what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is said to have with President George W. Bush–that inevitably adds extra weight to an already influential assignment.”

Still the friendly Cardinal will have his work cut out for him: “For a poor farmer’s son to have risen to the top of the Vatican hierarchy, Bertone must have had to develop steel under his outward affability. Vatican insiders note that in the new job–for which part of his task is to fend off those who want to derail the Pope’s agenda–that thick skin may count more than Bertone’s good humor. “