Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has shared some of his memories of the meetings held in preparation for the 2013 conclave, recounting that Cardinal Bergoglio’s interventions emphasized the need to focus on Christ. “The activities and the approach of the pontificate that is now being revealed in Pope Francis’ style” are an outcome of the pre-conclave meetings, the Vatican’s former secretary of state told CNA March 7. Cardinal Bertone was one of the main characters of the transition between the papacies of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Having served as secretary of state under Benedict from 2006, he served as Camerlengo of the Apostolic Chamber during the sede vacante, and briefly resumed as Pope Francis’ secretary of state, until his retirement Oct. 15, 2013. A year on from the election of Pope Francis, Cardinal Bertone said a major item of discussion during the pre-conclave meetings was “the setting of a new dialogue with society, in order to reduce the distance of mentality between the Church and new generations.” During the meetings, it was made clear that “the Church had to focus on an awakening of faith and love by offering to mankind the essential doctrine, together with a sense of divine mercy.” Cardinal Bertone then stressed that the Church “must not fear being the field hospital of humanity, in Pope Francis’ words.” Pope Francis’ description of the Church as field hospital reminded the cardinal of a poem by Nino Costa, a poet from Piedmont — the Italian region from which he hails. “Writing about the First World War, Nino Costa imagines a woman walking through a field full of injured and dying people. The woman is the Virgin Mary, but it can be perfectly fitted with the image of the Church, which consoles, encourages, heals.” According to this view, the Church should “concretely respond to those who spontaneously set themselves at the margins of the Church, perhaps because of the defaults and defects of the men and women of the same Church.” Given the present crisis of faith, the cardinals’ speeches “considered the occasions, the opportunities, the new perspectives opening up to the Church,” Cardinal Bertone recounted. According to the emeritus secretary of state, the new evangelization was another major topic discussed during the pre-conclave meetings. Cardinal Bergoglio zeroed in on the new evangelization in one of his interventions during the pre-conclave meetings. Cardinal Bertone explained, “Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about a new evangelization brought toward the peripheries of the Church. A Church — he said several times — called to go out from itself to evangelize.” “It was a no to the self-referentiality of the Church, and a yes to a Church going out, dialoguing with the world, moving toward everyone.” Cardinal Bertone underscored that “the new Pope must be a man that arouses the contemplation of Jesus Christ.” Conceding that “every Pope must do this,” yet — he added — “Jorge Mario Bergoglio accentuated the need to re-focus everything on Christ.”

Editor's Note: This is the first of three articles to be published featuring material from CNA's March 7 interview with Cardinal Bertone.