But for the exuberant secretary of state, the dream of creating a Catholic hospital center under the control and guidance of the Vatican dies hard. As proven by another of his failed initiatives: the conquest of the Gemelli, the Roman general hospital of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart that became famous all over the world for having accommodated and cared for John Paul II.
There was one obligatory step for the conquest of the Gemelli: the control of the founding and sponsoring institute of the Catholic University, the Toniolo, controlled in turn by the Italian episcopal conference and traditionally headed by the archbishop of Milan.
The Toniolo was for years the target of a hostile takeover that aimed to remove by any means necessary its representatives most closely allied with the cardinal who was the president of the CEI until 2007, Camillo Ruini.
The attack that in 2009 struck Dino Boffo, a member of the Toniolo and the director of the newspaper of the CEI, “Avvenire,” with accusations of homosexuality that were afterward acknowledged as false by the very newspaper that had published them, was the fiercest moment of this battle.
Bertone did not defend him. Worse, the director of the newspaper published by the Vatican secretariat of state, “L’Osservatore Romano,” Giovanni Maria Vian, peppered Boffo with criticisms in a merciless interview with “Corriere della Sera,” precisely at the crucial moment of the attack against him.
There would be no need today to read the heartbroken letters written by Boffo at that juncture, which have appeared among the papers stolen from the pope. The substantial dynamic of the facts was already before the eyes of all.
The San Raffaele operation, the attack on Boffo, the attempted conquest of the Gemelli, Bertone’s claim of outranking the CEI in the role of leading the Church in Italy. It all fits together.
In 2010, the irrepressible secretary of state, claiming a presumed mandate from Benedict XVI, even intimated to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi in writing that he should leave the presidency of the Toniolo. The archbishop of Milan flew off the handle. And Benedict XVI agreed with the latter, after calling both contenders before him.
This correspondence was also stolen and made public. But here as well the story was already well known. Today the presidency of the Toniolo has passed peacefully to Tettamanzi’s successor in the see of Milan, Cardinal Scola.
In a public letter to the bishops of the whole world, in 2009, Benedict XVI warned: “If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.”
The pope had taken these words from Saint Paul. Because even in Christianity at its origin, there were fierce contrasts.
And also with Jesus, among the apostles, there were some who jostled for places of power, and some who protested against the wasting of the precious ointment poured out upon the Master’s feet, instead of “selling it and giving the proceeds to the poor.”
Benedict XVI has the refinement and the humility never to identify himself with Jesus. But to associate himself with him, yes. Last May 21, at the toast at a luncheon with cardinals, he concluded trustfully: “We are on the team of the Lord, and therefore on the winning team.”
But what a struggle, when everyone is playing against him, even those “disguised with the truth.”
Immediately before this, speaking to the cardinals, the pope had cited Saint Augustine: “All of history is a battle between two loves: love of self even to disregard of God; love of God even to disregard of self.”
And he added: “We are in this battle, and in it it is very important to have friends. As concerns me, I am surrounded by my friends of the college of cardinals, I feel safe in their company.”
Father Federico Lombardi also guaranteed, on May 29: “There are no cardinals among the persons of interest or suspects.”