Angelo Sodano was born on November 23, 1927 in Piedmont, Italy in the village of Isola d'Asti. He was born into a family rich in tradition for providing many to the Church as priests. His father was high up in politics as a member of the Italian Parliament for three terms. This enabled Angelo to study in Rome and the Gregorian where he received his degree in Theology and then one in Canon Law from the Lateran University before being ordained a priest on September 23, 1950 during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.
It wouldn't be until Pope John XXIII became Sovereign Pontiff that Angelo's talents were sought. He had spent the nine years attending various institutions to further his studies and assigned to pastoral work as well as a few teaching projects. In 1959, the Holy Father summoned him to join the diplomatic corps of the Vatican. His first assignment was as Apostolic Nunciature to Ecuador, then to Uruguay. In 1968 Pope Paul VI recalled him to Rome where he was appointed to the office of the Pontifical Council for the Public Affairs of the Church where he remained for ten years. On November 30, 1977 Paul VI named him Titular Archbishop of Nova di Cesare and on January 15, 1978 the Holy Father consecrated him and offered him a new assignment as Papal Nuncio to Chile. After ten years in South America Pope John Paul II called him back in 1988 to the Vatican where he named Sodano Secretary of the Council for Relations with States, the same position currently held by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, featured as the 81st selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY.
He wasn't in that position for two years when the Holy Father promoted him to pro-Secretary of State on December 1, 1990. Six months later he was honored by being admitted into the exclusive ring of cardinals during the Pope's Consistory of June 28, 1991. He received his red hat and titular church of Santa Maria Nuova. Four years later he would be transferred to the order of cardinal bishops on January 10, 1994 receiving the additional title as titular bishop of the suburbicarian see of Albano.
But his most important appointment came the next day on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul when he was elevated to Secretary of State by His Holiness John Paul II. The Pope had reformed the Curia two years earlier on June 28, 1988. The Secretariat of State is the right hand of the Sovereign Pontiff, providing assistance in the care of the universal Church. This most vital of bodies is composed of two sections, the First Section for General Affairs which assists the Vicar of Christ in carrying out the daily business of the Holy See. Cardinal Sodano is in charge of preparing drafts of all documents as the Pope deigns and is also responsible for coordinating the Roman Curial day-to-day operations, consulting with the various Prefects and Presidents. He supervises the Vatican Press Office and L'Osservatore Romano, the Central Statistics Office and the accounts of the Church recorded in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Annuario Pontificio. He is the one who issues the encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations, Letters and Constitutions and few can get to the Pope without going through this office. The Second Section of the Secretariat of State, he also oversees but regular day-to-day duties are given over more to the Secretary for Relations with States, a very important office in these times of global impact. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran answers directly to Cardinal Sodano who, when push comes to shove, takes full responsibility for governing the Vatican Diplomatic division. Lately Archbishop Tauran has been on the move so much from Kosovo to Africa to Asia to the Holy Land to Indonesia that Cardinal Sodano has been working overtime in relations with civil governments, especially at this time with the grave situation in East Timor and Rwanda.
The well-respected Sodano has also fielded his share of questions about the Pope's health as well as every crisis within the Church and dealing with outside interests. It goes without saying that he would not have been elevated to such a high post if he weren't on the same page with John Paul II's policies and philosophy. The Holy Father has done a thorough house-cleaning over the past decade, replacing many within the Vatican who were undermining his authority and credibility and have brought scandal to the Holy See. But under Cardinal Sodano's leadership, the pendulum is swinging back to a more open, more orthodox atmosphere as the Church prepares to enter the new millennium, confident that Holy Mother Church will be stronger than ever.
Why can't we also forgive? That's the central theme of what the Holy Father is asking of all as we prepare for the new millennium. That is why we have offered this list of TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY. Sure, there are many that might have been omitted who one or another person feels should have been on the list, others who can't understand how another made the list, claiming they were a sinner because of this or that. There we go again, judging. Why can't we realize that if Christ forgives, we must also. Again, we assure you those chosen are accepted by the Church and therefore we stand by them. It's interesting that on almost every complaint we received, the person always inadvertently praised the selection - then added the proverbial "but" to it which provided the launching point for a diatribe on why this person was not worthy of the list. To quote the centurion "Lord, do not trouble Thyself, for I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof;" (Luke 7: 6). When push comes to shove, none of us are worthy. It is only through the grace of God that we can become worthy through the great gift of the Sacraments. All of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY did partake of the Sacraments. Were they sinners? You betcha! We all are. The only one who we can remember that was not a sinner was that special person born without Original Sin and chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of the Son of Man. The rest, even the greatest of saints were sinners. Why they're saints today is that they overcame sin by living the Gospel. Are we striving to do the same?
In defense of those attacked especially Tuesday's selection John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we provide not our comments, but readers. We don't have room to list all of them and, for the sake of brevity we provide just one for we have been inundated with e-mails of "how could you?" This comes from a 78 year-old retired priest who knew Kennedy. He wrote:
"As a Catholic priest who studied for the priesthood in Washington, D.C. I feel it only proper to inform you: to my knowledge and experience, John F. Kennedy was a good Catholic. As a seminarian I met him at Epiphany Parish in Georgetown, D.C. I was introduced to him as my friend Jack Kennedy, who works for the Government. The Pastor, Fr. Chester Ball, made the introduction. Jack attended daily Mass there and was a daily communicant. I didn't learn until some weeks later when he served the Mass of a priest from Massachusetts who informed us that Jack was the Junior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachuesetts. His wife Jacqueline was born at Southampton Hospital and was baptized in East Hampton at St. Philomena's Church. The name of the Church was changed to Holy Trinity. While in the White House, a priest was assigned by the Archbishop (O'Boyle) to say Mass at the White House every day. When the President and the family went to the estate at Virginia, another priest was appointed to say Mass at the residence where the President stayed. I really get upset when I read some of the trash about this man. Before God, I am certain he was a true Catholic gentleman. Anyone can write stories after you are dead. There is no one to defend you. I didn't vote for John F. Kennedy because I have always voted Republican. To this day I wish I had voted for him. I guess all this sounds foolish to you and I have been laughed at when I mention it to others - however, these things I know with imperical knowledge. The priest who went to the White House had been with the Sacred Heart Fathers (Father Damien was one of them) and he left the Sacred Heart Community to become a secular priest in the Washington D.C. Archdiocese...Please pardon a senior retired priest for coming to the defense of a man I knew. I wish other politicians had the same love and respect for Almighty God and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. God love, protect and bless you for your efforts on behalf of our Faith."
This priest was ordained in 1951 at the National Shrine in D.C. It is another example of someone "going against the grain" as Mary Magdalene did when she "crashed" Simon's party because of her love for the Lord. Because of his love for the truth this retired priest stepped out and defended a man badly maligned. Even we didn't know he was a daily communicant. His words we included in today's commentary to show all how we can all misjudge someone and malign someone without a thorough knowledge of one's soul. Only God knows the heart and soul, not man. It gives us all pause to hang our heads in shame for preconceived thoughts about anyone without truly knowing the truth about that person. If we are not absolutely sure of someone's guilt, then we best keep our mouths closed and our minds and hearts open. For to condemn one of God's creatures, we surely must realize we will have to stand before our Maker one day to answer for our sins. When that time comes, will we remember Our Lord's words in Matthew 7: 1-2, "Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you"? In other words, button our lips and open our hearts. By opening our hearts we will grow closer to Jesus and His Blessed Mother and follow their example, making it less and less likely we'll malign others. Therefore, with just over one hundred days left before the new millennium, let us all strive to do as Mary Magdalene and this honest priest of God have done: step out in faith. If we are truly striving for sanctity and understand our Faith, then we will follow Christ and the Church's call to help others and, to paraphrase the man so maligned: Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God!
I found a channel recently that gives good home and gardening tips and itís taught me some interesting things, though I am not a consistent viewer. But as I surf those channels in which I have some interest or watch the commercials, I am affronted with previews of movies or TV programs that are going to be showing. I am increasingly noting that many programs deal with the monstrous, the scary, the horrendous, the hideous.
Why are so many of these programs attractive to the public? How do they lift up the human spirit and give hope? Why do people love to be scared out of their wits? How can parents let their little children watch these horrific, bloody, ugly programs? What is so wonderful about them?
I remember as a very young girl seeing a preview of a movie in which there was a terrible earthquake. In the movie the ground opened up, people fell into the crevices, and the ground closed again upon them. That scary experience, to my young and impressionable spirit, has remained with me. I can remember it as though I saw the movie preview today.
I could not understand then and still do not understand today why people like to be scared out their minds. Donít they have nightmares? What is so wonderful about the monstrous? What is it about our modern society that people need the horrendous to be entertained?
Could part of the reason be that most of us today havenít really lived through terrible societal times? I mean we in this country have not experienced war on our land, concentration camps, near starvation, being refugees. I wonder how many people in Kosovo or Bosnia would like to watch those monstrous movies? Theyíve LIVED horrible experiences, did not find them entertaining, nor, I would bet, ENJOY or be entertained by the horrific.
I think sometimes we have things way too easy here. Not that I wish anything terrible to happen to anyone. Itís just that in our comfort zone and with our conveniences, we havenít lived through really scary times in real life, and scary experiences are not in our world of realism for most of us. It always happens to someone else. It couldnít happen to us. People can watch a scary film and leave the theater knowing it was a fictional experience.
But our minds are sponges. Whatever goes into them, stays there. Are there people who cannot leave the ďfictionalĒ in the theater and keep it separate from their real living? Considering the growing number of shootings in schools, places where people gather, etc., it makes one wonder. What is real? What is fictional? Why are the gruesome and monstrous so attractive?
Hell is a monstous place and itís not fictional. Those who go there are not in the least entertained.
I want to watch programs that lift up my human spirit and give me hope.
Lord, have mercy on us and help us! We are in such need to love what is good.
Godís peace and love be with you, dear reader!
After ten years as Archbishop of Bombay, in which he also served consecutive terms as President of the Indian Bishops' Conference, Pope John Paul II elevated him to the cardinalate during the Consistory of June 28, 1988 when he received the titular church of Mary, Queen of the World at a Torre Spaccata. He was appointed curial membership in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for Catholic Education as well as the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. On November 8, 1996 at the age of 76 Cardinal Pimenta resigned his post, becoming Archbishop emeritus of Bombay and permanently residing at the Archbishop's quarters in Bombay.
"The tragedy of today is that the world is not only tearing up the photographs of a good society, but also tearing up the negatives. By denying truth the world gives up the search for it, just as the person who believes that blindness is normal will never seek a cure."