“At this moment”, the Pope said, “I wish to share with you all my feelings of gratitude”. Addressing Cardinal Bertone, he continued, “I see in you, above all, the son of Don Bosco. We are all marked by our history. Thinking of your long service to the Church, both in teaching and in the ministry of diocesan bishop and in your work in the Curia, up to your role as secretary of State, it seems to me that the uniting thread is made precisely of the priestly vocation … which has led you to fulfil all your duties … with deep love for the Church, great generosity, and with that typically Salesian mix that unites a sincere spirit of of obedience with a great freedom of initiative and personal inventiveness”.
The pontiff underlined another aspect of Cardinal Bertone’s service, “the attitude of unconditional faithfulness and absolute loyalty to Peter, a distinctive characteristic of your mandate as Secretary of State, both in relation to Benedict XVI and to me during these months. I have been aware of this on many occasions and am profoundly grateful to you”.
“Finally, I would like to thank you also for the courage and patience with which you have faced adversities – and there have been many”, added Pope Francis, citing the example of Don Bosco’s dream in which he and his young followers pass along a path covered with a trellis of roses. From the outside one sees only the roses but gradually, as they walk, they begin to encounter sharp thorns and are tempted to leave, but the Virgin Mary exhorts them to persevere and they eventually find themselves in a beautiful garden. “The dream would represent the strife of the educator, but I think it can be applied also to any ministry of responsibility within the Church. Dear Cardinal Bertone, in this moment I like to think that, even though there have been thorns, Mary Help of Christians has certainly not failed to lend a hand, and will not fail to do so in the future. We all hope that you may continue to enjoy the treasures that have characterised your vocation: the presence of Jesus-Eucharist, the help of Our Lady, and the friendship of the Pope. Don Bosco’s three great loves: these three.
“And with these thoughts, we extend, in absentia, the most cordial welcome to the new secretary. He well knows the family of the secretariat of State, having worked there for many years with passion and competence and with his characteristic capacity for dialogue and negotiation. In a certain sense it will be like a homecoming”.
The Pope concluded by asking the staff of the secretariat of State to pray for him, and Cardinal Bertone then gave a short address recalling his seven years of service to the Holy See, first with Pope Benedict XVI, whose pontificate was characterised by “seeing the Church understand herself in depth as communion, and at the same time able to speak to the world, to the heart and the intelligence of everyone, with doctrinal clarity and high thought”. For Cardinal Bertone, Benedict XVI was “a reformer of consciences and of the clergy. His pontificate was distinguished by strong pastoral projects. … He suffered greatly on account of the ills that plagued the Church and for this reason he gave her new legislation in order to strike out decisively the shameful phenomenon of paedophilia among the clergy, without forgetting the initiation of new rules in economic and administrative matters”.
“Today I see in Pope Francis not so much a revolution but rather continuity from Pope Benedict XVI, although with differences in terms of accents and aspects of personal life. … Listening, tenderness, mercy, and confidence are outstanding features I have experienced with you. … And I cannot finish without underlining two expressions that reinforce this continuity: the gift of spontaneous and inspired counsel, and the common and fervent Marian devotion. There is no better image of the two Popes than that which juxtaposes the photographs of each one gathered in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima; Pope Benedict in Fatima, in the Year for Priests, 2010, and Pope Francis before the same image in Rome, in the Year of Faith, to place the entire Church in a state of penance and purification”.
The cardinal concluded by expressing his wish that the new secretary of State will be able “to untangle the knots that still prevent the Church from being in Christ the heart of the world, the longed-for and incessantly invoked horizon”.