Cardinal Bertone defends new apartment, claims papal approval

Vatican City — Former Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has responded to criticism that his new residence at the Vatican is too large and opulent, saying the apartment is of normal size for a church prelate and that Pope Francis has called him to express support.

Reports in recent days had said Bertone, who served at the Vatican post from 2006-13, had gone to unusual expense to combine two previous apartments inside the Vatican into one 6,500 square foot residence.

Writing on the website of the Italian archdiocese of Genoa, which the cardinal led from 2002-06, Bertone says he received a call from Francis April 23 during which the pope informed the cardinal of "his sympathy and his disappointment for the attacks against me about the apartment."

"The apartment is spacious, as is normal for the residences in the ancient palaces of the Vatican, and dutifully restored (at my expense)," writes Bertone. 

"I may temporarily use and after me it will benefit someone else," the cardinal continues. "In the words of the Pope Saint John XXIII, 'I do not stop to pick up the stones that are thrown at me.'"

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Initial reports on the matter in the Italian daily La Repubblica had indicated that Bertone's decision to renovate the apartment, which is located a few steps away from Francis' residence at the Vatican hotel Casa Santa Marta, had angered the pope. 

Along with Bertone's letter, the Genoa diocese published a short note explaining their decision to publish the cardinal's words, saying that Bertone has the "affection, solidarity, and prayers" of the church in Genoa.

The memory of the cardinal's time there, the note states, "is not tarnished in any way by the malevolence of media which on several occasions, as on this occasion, was unfairly made."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR national correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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