Sodano was nuncio to Chile from 1977 to 1988. He also worked in the nunciatures in Ecuador and Uruguay.
In 1988, Pope John Paul II summoned him to the Vatican to serve as Secretary of the Council for Public Affairs of the Church. After the Vatican constitution Pastor bonus came into force, Sodano was named Secretary for the Relationship with States.
He became Pro-Secretary of State in 1990. A year later, he was named Secretary of State and a cardinal.
Sodano retired as Secretary of State in 2006, after leading the powerful curial office under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
At the funeral, Cardinal Re said: “In the nearly 16 years that he was the pope’s first collaborator, he worked with competence and dedication on behalf of peace.”
Following John Paul II’s death in 2005, Sodano was elected dean of the College of Cardinals. In that role, he preached at the Mass in 2013 before the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
Addressing his fellow cardinals, he said: “My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission [of charity] with a generous heart.”
The cardinal’s final years were overshadowed by allegations that he covered up sexual abuse by Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and others. Sodano’s name was mentioned 30 times in the McCarrick Report, published in 2020.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a clerical sex abuse survivor from Chile and a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, wrote on Twitter on May 28 that Sodano “did so much harm to so many people and covered up years of abuse in Chile and the world.”
Pope Francis accepted Sodano’s resignation as dean of the College of Cardinals in 2019, while establishing a five-year term limit for cardinal deans, who previously held the position for life.
The pope paid tribute to Sodano in a telegram on May 28.
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“I recall his diligent work alongside so many of my predecessors, who entrusted him with important responsibilities in Vatican diplomacy, up to the delicate office of Secretary of State,” he said.
“In the Roman Curia, he carried out his mission with exemplary dedication. I, too, was able to benefit from his gifts of mind and heart, especially during the time when he exercised the office of Dean of the College of Cardinals.”
“In every assignment, he showed himself to be an ecclesially disciplined man, an amiable pastor, animated by a desire to spread the leaven of the Gospel everywhere.”
“I raise to God the Merciful Father prayers of suffrage for the late cardinal, that he may receive him into eternal joy.”
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