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Associated Press
Vatican City – July 18, The Vatican’s No. 2 official defended Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday following a flurry of hard-line Vatican documents, saying he was a sweet, respectful “volcano of creativity.”
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, gave a press conference on a broad array of topics after meeting with Benedict in Italy’s Dolomite mountains, where the pontiff has been vacationing for the past week.
Among other things, Bertone pledged to put more women in high-ranking Vatican positions and said the Vatican might drop a controversial prayer for the conversion of Jews contained in the recently revived old Latin Mass.
He declared the pope’s recent trip to Brazil was not a “flop” as suggested by the media, saying “thousands of people welcomed him.”
Bertone also praised the new bishop of Beijing as a “very good” candidate, even though the pope did not appoint him – further evidence of the Vatican’s efforts to reach a compromise with Beijing over the contentious issue of naming bishops.
Bertone was supposed to have given a talk on his first year as Benedict’s deputy and on the secret of Fatima. Instead, for more than an hour and a half, he took prepared questions from journalists and answered them thoroughly in a rare show of openness from the Vatican.
The event came after a busy few weeks in which the Vatican revived the old Latin Mass in a concession to traditional Catholics and reasserted its universal primacy in a document that riled Protestants because it said they were not true churches.
Bertone sought to soften Benedict’s image, saying he bore no resemblance to the dour professor he is often portrayed as being in the media. He said at his core Benedict was sweet.
To illustrate how respectful he is of others, Bertone said that the pope even refers to him in the formal Italian “lei” – not the familiar “tu” – even though they have been close collaborators for a dozen years.
When Benedict was prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, he would even ask the youngest, most junior staff member his ideas – always addressing him as “lei,” Bertone said.
And Bertone expressed reverence for Benedict’s intellect, calling him a “volcano of creativity” who can be working on several documents at once, as he is now: a new book and a new encyclical.
Yet the pope also carries the weight of the world’s problems, Bertone said, and is particularly concerned about the situation in Iraq, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Africa, and the U.S. clergy sex abuse scandal, Bertone said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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