Updated on Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:44 p.m. Rome time: a Vatican source told CNA that Archbishop Parolin was absent from the ceremony due to appendicitis.

In a farewell ceremony held at the Vatican, former state secretary Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone stepped down from the position – which will soon be filled by his successor, Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin.

During the short Oct. 15 event, which was held in the library of the Secretariat of State, Pope Francis lauded Cardinal Bertone for his personal contribution to the organization and running of the Holy See.

"Thinking about his long service to the Church, the teaching as well as the ministry of diocesan bishops and also his work as Secretary of State," he said, "I can see that the driving force is that of a priestly Salesian vocation that has affected him since childhood."

This vocation, the Pope urged "has led him to fulfill all the duties, which he received with a deep love for the Church, great generosity and with that typical Salesian mix that united a sincere spirit of obedience to a great freedom of initiative and personal ingenuity."

The now 78-year-old Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a canon lawyer and theologian, was appointed to the position by Benedict XVI in 2006, and continued to serve Pope Francis since his March 13 election until today.

His successor, Archbishop Parolin, had previously been serving as the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, and was named as the new secretary by Pope Francis on Aug. 31.

Although the archbishop was expected to take office today, he was not present at the ceremony.

Pope Francis stated that "Monsignor Parolin will take up his new post within the next few weeks," the reason being that he is recovering from "a small surgery that he has had to undergo."

On the subject, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi affirmed that the surgery "must not be anything serious, because in a few weeks he will be fine."

Archbishop Parolin, who received his training at the Vatican's diplomatic school, has gained extensive experience in working with the Secretariat of State both in Rome and abroad, and is known for his particular skill in facing challenging diplomatic situations.

Despite the archbishop's temporary absence, the Holy Father noted that he has served the Secretary of State for many years with eagerness, skill and a great capacity for dialogue.