A top Vatican official who was the subject of unflattering diplomatic cables revealed by the WikiLeaks website has said he is proud to have been described as one of the "yes men" of Pope Benedict XVI - writes Luigi Sandri.
Reports in the Italian media have drawn attention to the messages sent to the US. Department of State by the US embassy to the Holy See about 76-year-old Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, named by the Pope in 2006 as the Holy See's Secretary of State, seen as the "number two" position in the Catholic hierarchy.
Julieta Valls Noyes, the deputy chief of mission for the embassy, was quoted in one message referring to voices in the Vatican calling for the "removal" of Bertone from his position. She described Bertone as a papal "yes man" being more interested in spiritual issues than foreign policy, and who lacked language skills.
Bertone had no diplomatic experience when he became Secretary of State, the person who oversees the political and diplomatic functions of Vatican City and the Holy See.
From 1995 to 2002, Cardinal Bertone was the Secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when it was headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
Commenting ton the remarks about him, Bertone was quoted by more than one Italian newspaper as saying, "I'm proud to be a 'yes' man. This colourful image well represents my agreement with Pope Benedict."
Vatican sources noted that while the cardinal does not speak English, he speaks Spanish, German, French and Portuguese.
Another confidential cable, from February 2009, castigated the Vatican for its poor command of public relations and "public spin", and for "leadership weaknesses" at the top.
In a recent statement about the WikiLeaks reports, the Holy See press office referred to "the extreme seriousness of publishing such a large amount of secret and confidential material, and its possible consequences".
It stated, "Naturally these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials."
The reliability of the reports, the Vatican statement said, "must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind".
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches. It suspends operations in December 2010, but hopes to be restructured in early 2011]