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Outgoing top Vatican official condemns critics as 'crows and vipers'

ROME — Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s outgoing secretary of state, has denounced what he calls the “crows and vipers” at work within the Vatican and appeared to suggest that former Pope Benedict should share some of the blame for mistakes made on his watch.

In his first public remarks since he was replaced Saturday as the Vatican equivalent of prime minister, Bertone took aim at critics who allege he oversaw a gaffe-prone and scandal-filed papacy after Benedict appointed him in 2006.

“On balance, I consider these seven years to have been positive,” Bertone said on the sidelines of a Mass celebrated Sunday in Sicily. “Naturally there were problems, particularly in the last two years, they have made many accusations against me. … A mix of crows and vipers.”

Bertone has been depicted as overseeing a Vatican divided by rivalries and suffering from mismanagement. That characterization has surfaced both in letters leaked last year by Benedict’s butler and reportedly in comments by other disgruntled Vatican officials, who were nicknamed “crows.”

Bertone admitted he might have made mistakes running the Vatican, but said, “On the one hand it seems like the secretary of state decides and controls everything, but it is not like that.”

He added, “There were matters that got out of control because they were problems which were sealed within the management of certain people who did not contact the secretary of state.”

He seemed to be implicating Benedict as well when he said: “An honest assessment cannot but take note of how the secretary of state is the first assistant of the pope, a faithful executor of the tasks with which he is entrusted. Something I did and will do.”

On Saturday, Pope Francis named Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, currently nuncio in Venezuela, as replacement for Bertone, who was due to step down. Parolin will formerly take over the job on Oct. 15.

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