Next secretary of state says Vatican warnings on Iraq were prophetic
ROME (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's choice as the next secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the current situation in Iraq demonstrates that the Vatican's warnings against the war were "prophetic."
At the same time, the cardinal said he has argued against a precipitous pullout of Western forces from Iraq because it would be leave local Iraqis exposed to dangers.
Cardinal Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, made the comments in a lengthy interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni (30 Days), published Aug. 9.
Cardinal Bertone, who takes up his new duties Sept. 15, also said he had been following the fighting in Lebanon and was praying every day that the country be spared further "useless massacres." He expressed support for the strongly worded appeals of Pope Benedict and the outgoing secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, both of whom have called for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.
On Iraq, Cardinal Bertone said he had agreed with the Vatican's position against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and added, "The current situation in Iraq shows how prophetic that judgment was."
Although not a diplomat by training, Cardinal Bertone has traveled extensively and has been involved in global issues, including economic relations between the world's poorest and richest countries.
In the interview, the cardinal said he considered international lending by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and by richer countries a form of usury that "should be declared illegal." He said loans become usury when they violate the right to life and other basic human rights.
"Some technocrats, especially those of multinationals, the World Bank and the (International) Monetary Fund, have imposed unacceptable conditions on the poor populations, like forced sterilization and obligatory closing of Catholic schools," he said. He did not elaborate.
He said the church's social teaching calls for a "popular democratic capitalism" that benefits the greatest number of people and favors economic creativity and healthy competition.
On the question of Islam, Cardinal Bertone said that as archbishop of Genoa he had not opposed the construction of a mosque in the city, because he believes it is important to protect the human dignity of Muslim believers.
At the same time, he said, it would be good if "a certain reciprocity" were shown to Christian minorities in Muslim countries.
The cardinal said he was also open to the idea of Islamic religious instruction for Muslims in Italian public schools, as long as the content respected the constitutional values of Italy -- something that might prove difficult, he added.