Pope Benedict XVI has announced the appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the archbishop of Genova, as the new secretary of state of the Vatican. Cardinal Bertone will replace Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is retiring after 15 years in the position, one of the most powerful in the government of the Roman Catholic Church.

The appointment of Cardinal Bertone has come as a surprise to many Vatican observers as the cardinal does not come from a diplomatic background. The appointment may indicate that the pope wishes to be seen as being less political and as having a more ecclesiastical profile.

Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone worked very closely together when Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, was the prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

Cardinal Bertone takes up the position as secretary of state on 15 September 2006. The Secretariat of state, which is the oldest and most powerful department of the Vatican curia, or government, performs all the diplomatic and political functions of the Holy See.