When Pope Benedict XVI arrives on September 16, he will be accompanied by the papal entourage. Composed of Vatican diplomats, secretaries, and curial officials, the seguito, as the papal retinue is known, will be hard at work during the papal visit. They will accompany the Pope during his public events but will also be involved in behind the scenes diplomatic work.
The most important meeting will be a working dinner at Lancaster House where the members of the entourage will meet their counterparts at the Foreign Office, Government and other aspects of public life. At the dinner, tables will be arranged more or less thematically, so that officials can discuss subjects such as fighting poverty in the developing world and the situation in the Middle East.
The composition of the seguito reflects the key themes of the visit. For example the presence of both Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s outgoing ecumenist who has devoted much of his career to furthering the rapprochement between Anglicans and Catholics, and his successor, Archbishop Kurt Koch , a member of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis, points to Rome’s willingness to patch up relations with Anglicans post-Anglicanorum coetibus.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s number two man, leads the delegation. Once a member of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Ratzinger’s old curial department, Cardinal Bertone oversees the Vatican’s considerable foreign interests, diplomatic efforts and policy. He is notoriously gaffe-prone and many of the Vatican’s recent communications fiascos have been attributed to him.
Archbishop Fernando Filoni, another member of the Ratzinger support crew, is the Vatican’s substitute secretary of state: Bertone’s number two. After long years in the Church’s diplomatic service, Archbishop Filoni served as nuncio to Iraq in the first years of the war. It is likely his experience of Christian persecution in Iraq will make that topic a key theme for the Lancaster House dinner.
Archbishop Angelo Amato is the prefect of the Congregation of Saints. An old Ratzinger circle man and former secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Amato is an Italian whose department oversees the making of saints. His inclusion in the seguito makes sense because of the papal visit’s high point, Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification. The 72-year-old Salesian is also one of the principal drafters of Dominus Iesus, a document published in 2000 reiterating the Church’s unique place in the path to salvation.
Another key member of Benedict XVI’s team and a veteran of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti is the Secretary for Relations with States. Born in French Morocco, Archbishop Mamberti was apostolic nuncio to Eritrea and Sudan and effectively acts as the Vatican’s foreign secretary.
On the pastoral side of things, the Pope is accompanied by the papal MC, Mgr Guido Marini, whom liturgical traditionalists have named “the Good Marini” to distinguish him from Archbishop Piero Marini – Pope John Paul II’s liturgist. Other key members include the Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s press secretary, and Mgr Georg Gänswein, the Pope’s private secretary.