Vatican diplomat to be pope's top aide

Pope Francis welcomes King of Jordan Abdullah II Ibn Hussein's wife Rania (R) during a private audience on August 29, 2013 atthe  Vatican.   AFP PHOTO /POOL/ MAURIZIO BRAMBATTIMAURIZIO BRAMBATTI/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis welcomes King of Jordan Abdullah II Ibn Hussein's wife Rania (R) during a private audience on August 29, 2013 atthe Vatican. AFP PHOTO /POOL/ MAURIZIO BRAMBATTIMAURIZIO BRAMBATTI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday tapped a veteran Vatican diplomat to be his top aide, replacing the Holy See's secretary of state, who became a divisive figure in a church hierarchy mired in embarrassing scandal.

The Vatican announced that Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, an Italian and former deputy foreign minister at the Vatican, on Oct. 15 will assume the post held since 2006 by Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal will remain in the position until then, giving Parolin, currently serving as papal envoy to Venezuela, time to prepare for his new duties.

Benedict XVI, who retired as pontiff earlier this year, had relied heavily on Bertone , who had served the pope for many years.

The Vatican noted that Bertone, 78, was retiring under a church law that requires cardinals who hold top curia posts to offer their resignations when they turn 75. Benedict had kept him in place, reportedly to the irritation of a rival faction of Vatican bureaucrats loyal to Bertone's predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

A scandal during the latter years of Benedict XVI's papacy involving the theft of papal documents and embarrassing revelations of alleged corruption and power plays at the Vatican was widely seen as aiming to discredit Bertone.

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