Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, number two in the Vatican in the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI and involved in several controversies that shook the Church, died on Friday at the age of 94 in Rome, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

Sodano died at the Columbus-Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he had been hospitalized since May 9 after suffering complications from the coronavirus he contracted a few weeks ago, according to the Holy See’s website, Vatican News.

Pope Francis remembered this “esteemed man of the Church, who lived his priesthood with generosity (…) at the service of the Holy See,” in a telegram sent to the family and published by the Vatican.

John Paul II made Sodano number two in the Vatican by appointing him Secretary of State in 1991, after making him a cardinal. The official accompanied the pope on some 50 trips abroad.

Benedict XVI confirmed him in office after his election as pope in 2005. Sodano remained in office until September 2006, that is, a total of 15 years.

In 2005, he also became dean of the College of Cardinals, which he directed at the time Benedict XVI left office in February 2013. But since he was already over 80 years old at the time, he lost the opportunity to participate in the conclave that chose the new pope.

In 2019, Francis accepted Cardinal Sodano’s resignation from the position of dean of the College of Cardinals.

Born on November 23, 1927 in the Italian region of Piemonte (north), Sodano was the second of six children in a peasant family. He graduated in Theology and Canon Law in Rome and first formed part of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See in countries such as Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay.

In 1977, he was appointed apostolic nuncio by Paul VI in Chile, where he maintained a very tolerant attitude towards the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

At this time, Sodano participated in the mediation of the Catholic Church to resolve territorial problems between Argentina and Chile.

He returned to Rome in 1988 and became the right-hand man of Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli. In 1989 he was appointed secretary for relations with states, a post that is equivalent to a ministry of foreign affairs.

Cardinal Sodano was also involved in controversy. In addition to his relations with Pinochet or his high standard of living in Rome, according to the weekly National Catholic Reporter, he would also have protected the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Mexican Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008 and accused of sexual abuse against minors. .

The funeral will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday, in the presence of the pope.

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