Francis names new Camerlengo, interim leader of Vatican at pope's death

Rome — Pope Francis has named a new cardinal to the symbolic role of Camerlengo of the Roman Catholic church, the official who will be charged with acting as the head of state of Vatican City upon Francis' death or resignation.

The Vatican announced Saturday that the pope has appointed French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to the post, replacing retired Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who had held the role since April 2007.

Tauran, the president of the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue, is known to many as the cardinal who first introduced Francis to the world after his election in March 2013, announcing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica that the cardinals in conclave had elected a new pontiff.

While Tauran's role as Camerlengo is not exactly influential, it is symbolic. In the event of the death or resignation of the pope, the Camerlengo is one of only two officials who retain their roles in the Vatican bureaucracy and he is charged with administering the temporal goods of the church until the election of a new pope.

In the event of the death of the pope, the Camerlengo is also charged with verifying the pontiff's death and then destroying his ring, one of the symbols of the late pontiff's authority. 

The Vatican also announced Saturday that Francis had named a new vice Camerlengo, who is to assist Tauran in his duties. That position was assigned to Archbishop Giampiero Gloder, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

Gloder replaces Italian Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, who had been appointed to the role in July 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.*

Bertone's replacement as Camerlengo was expected, as the Italian cardinal on Dec. 2 turned 80 years of age, the normal retirement age for cardinals and the age at which they can no longer participate in conclaves that elect popes.

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

*The original version of this story misidentified who had previously served as vice Camerlengo.

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