Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former Vatican secretary of state, dies at 94

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May 28 (UPI) — Pope Francis expressed his condolences Saturday to the sister of Cardinal Angelo Sodano while announcing that the former secretary of state for Vatican City had died. He was 94.

Sodano had been hospitalized for pneumonia on May 9 at the Columbus Hospital-Gemelli in Rome after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the state-run news agency Vatican News.

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Sodano, who was also a dean emeritus for the College of Cardinals, had served as the secretary of state under Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican, an independent city-state surrounded by Rome, is governed by the Holy See.

“The passing of Cardinal Angelo Sodano stirs in my soul sentiments of gratitude to the Lord for the gift of this esteemed man of the church, who lived his priesthood with generosity, first in the diocese of Asti and then, for the rest of his long life, in the service of the Holy See,” Francis said in a statement.

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“I remember his diligent work alongside many of my predecessors, who entrusted important responsibilities to him in Vatican diplomacy, culminating in the delicate office of secretary of state.”

Sodano was born in November 1927 to parents Giovanni and Delfina Sodano in Isola d’Asti, a rural community in the Piedmont region in northern Italy.

He attended a seminary in Asti and later earned degrees in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University, both in Rome.

Sodano was ordained as a priest in 1950 and spent his first years teaching dogmatic theology in Asti while ministering to students. He was called to serve in the Holy See in 1959 and assigned to serve as a Vatican diplomat to the nations of Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile.

“In the pontifical representations in Ecuador, Uruguay and Chile, he devoted himself zealously to the good of those populations, promoting dialogue and reconciliation,” Francis said.

“In the Roman Curia, he carried out his mission with exemplary dedication.”

Sodano returned to Rome in 1968 and served on the council for public affairs, representing the Vatican in trips to Romania, Hungary and East Germany.

Pope Paul VI appointed Sodano as the apostolic nuncio, the equivalent of a diplomatic ambassador, to Chile in November in 1977 and participated in mediation efforts during tensions between Chile and Argentina.

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After various other appointments, he was appointed by Pope John Paul II as a cardinal and became secretary of state in June 1991. He was tapped as vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002.

Sodano participated in the papal conclave in 2005 during which Pope Benedict XVI was elected.

Pope Benedict XVI, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had held the title of the dean of the College of Cardinals and tapped Sodano as his successor in that role.

Sodano resigned as secretary of state a few months later and then resigned from the College of Cardinals in 2019.

“I too was able to benefit from his gifts of the mind and of the heart, especially while he exercised the role of dean of the College of Cardinals,” Francis said.

“In every task he showed himself to be an ecclesially disciplined man, and an amiable pastor, inspired by the desire to spread the leaven of the gospel everywhere.”

Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano says a mass for the election of a new pope at St Peter’s basilica on March 12, 2013, at the Vatican. Sodano died May 27 at age 94. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo