Cardinal Angelo Sodano, former Vatican diplomat and retired secretary of state, died on Friday at the age of 94.
The ex-dean of the College of Cardinals had contracted pneumonia after becoming ill with COVID-19; He had been hospitalized since May 9 at Rome’s Columbus Hospital. His funeral will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica on May 31.
In a May 28 statement, Pope Francis said that the death of Cardinal Sodano “stirs in my soul feelings of gratitude to the Lord for the gift of this esteemed man of the Church, who lived with generosity his priesthood first in the Diocese of Asti and then, for the rest of his long existence, in the service of the Holy See.”
Cardinal Sodano retired as secretary of state in 2006, after leading the powerful curial office for 15 years under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
He had come under criticism in the later part of his life for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel, former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and others.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a clerical sex abuse survivor from Chile and member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, wrote on Twitter on May 28, that Cardinal Sodano “did so much harm to so many people and covered up years of abuse in Chile and the world.”
Sodano was nuncio to Chile from 1977 to 1988. He also served in the nunciatures in Ecuador and Uruguay, and was secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church.
At the same time as reports were coming out about Sodano’s actions on abuse in 2019, Pope Francis accepted his resignation as dean of the College of Cardinals, citing old age. The pope also established a five-year term limit for cardinal deans, previously a life position.
Sodano was born in Isola d’Asti, in Italy’s north-western Piedmont region, the second of six children.
He was ordained a priest in 1950, and spent almost 10 years teaching dogmatic theology in the diocesan seminary before being called to serve in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
In his telegram for Sodano’s death, Pope Francis said “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.”
“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,” he continued.
“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,” he stated. “I raise to God the Merciful Father prayers of suffrage for the late cardinal, that he may receive him into eternal joy.”