Julián Herranz, the 82-year-old cardinal from Córdoba, has spent half his life in the Roman Curia, including 13 years at the helm of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. This member of Opus Dei, expert in canon law, doctor and psychiatrist also presided over the investigative committee created to get to the bottom of the Vatican media scandal dubbed as Vatileaks.
This major figure in Roman Catholic circles of power was sitting in the same room as Pope Benedict XVI when the latter read out the message in Latin announcing his resignation.
“I was moved,” he remembers. “As an expert in canon law, I have to say the resignation conforms perfectly to Canon 332, paragraph two. I simultaneously felt sadness because of all the years I have worked with him. Not only is he an exceptional theologian, but also a man with extraordinary innate qualities, with a love of Jesus Christ that he has demonstrated in the three books he wrote on Jesus of Nazareth.
“But I also felt inner joy at the humility and love of the Church that he demonstrated: humility because abandoning power is not something you see every day, not even in civilian life.
“The pope has done some soul-searching regarding his psychological and physical limitations, which have gotten worse in the last few months, and said: ‘I cannot go on, I need for another to guide Peter’s boat.’”
The Vatileaks committee turned in its report to the Pope on December 17. Many people believe that this analysis of the internal warfare over issues such as the Vatican bank’s opaque transactions or sexual abuse by priests is what finally triggered the resignation of Benedict XVI, who was trying to shed light on these matters.
“This issue has been blown out of all proportion,” says Herranz, who was one of the most influential members of the Vatican under the previous pope, John Paul II. “As chair of that committee, I can assure you that a bubble was created that has burst all by itself. It is quite frequent in the Vatican to create this sort of committee, to examine how things are going in a specific area.”
As a matter of fact, Herranz claims that the Vatican sets a world example as far as governments go.
“This desire to see viper nests everywhere, mafias fighting one another, internal hatreds... it is all absolutely false. I have been working at the Vatican for over half a century and I can say that I admire many of my colleagues for their devotion and sacrifice,” he says.
“There might be some black sheep, like in all families, but it is the least corrupt, most transparent government that I know of, more than any international organization or civilian government.
“I follow the news a lot, I am not a hermit, and I read about what is going on in the world, and I see that [THE VATICAN]is the least corrupt and a role model in many ways.”
As for the best candidate to be the new pope, Herranz says he must be a “man who is in love with the Christ” and “able to explain his love of God.” Besides being a good communicator, other factors to take into account are “age, health, language skills, ability to travel, and perhaps also his nationality.”