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His Eminence Angelo Sodano GCC
Dean of the College of Cardinals
Angelo Sodano in 2016
Province Diocese of Rome
See Albano,
S. Maria Nuova (in commendam)
Appointed 30 April 2005
Reign ended 21 December 2019
Predecessor Joseph Ratzinger
Successor Giovanni Battista Re
Other posts
  • Cardinal-Bishop of Albano
  • Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Nuova
Ordination 23 September 1950
Consecration 15 January 1978
by Antonio Samorè
Created Cardinal 28 June 1991
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1927-11-23)23 November 1927
Isola d'Asti, Piedmont, Kingdom of Italy
Died 27 May 2022(2022-05-27) (aged 94)
Rome, Italy
Nationality Italian
Denomination Catholic
Previous post
  • Titular Archbishop of Nova Caesaris (1977–1991)
  • Apostolic Nuncio to Chile (1977–1988)
  • Secretary of the Roman Curia (1988–1989)
  • Official of the Secretariat of State (1989–1991)
  • Secretary of the Secretariat of State (1991–2006)
  • Vice-Dean (Sub-Dean) of the College of Cardinals (2002–2005)
  • Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia (2005–2019)
Alma mater Pontifical Gregorian University
Pontifical Lateran University
Motto ut unum sint
(that they may be one)
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Styles of
Angelo Sodano
Coat of arms of Angelo Sodano.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Albano (suburbicarian),
S. Maria Nuova (in commendam)
Coat of Arms of Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Order of Charles III)
Coat of arms as knight of the Spanish Order of Charles III

Angelo Raffaele Sodano, GCC (23 November 1927 – 27 May 2022) was an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church and, from 1991 onward, a cardinal. He was the Dean of the College of Cardinals from 2005 to 2019 and Cardinal Secretary of State from 1991 to 2006; Sodano was the first person since 1828 to serve simultaneously as Dean and Secretary of State.

On 22 June 2006, Pope Benedict XVI accepted Sodano's resignation as Secretary of State, effective on 15 September 2006. He had served in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See since 1959, including a decade as nuncio to Chile from 1978 to 1988. ..... On the same day, Pope Francis accepted Sodano's resignation as Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Early life

The second of six children, Sodano was born on 23 November 1927 in Isola d'Asti, Piedmont, to Giovanni and Delfina Sodano. His father (1901–1991) was a Christian Democrat deputy in the Italian Parliament for three terms from 1948 until 1963. After studying philosophy and theology at the seminary of Asti, Sodano was ordained a priest by Bishop Umberto Rossi on 23 September 1950, and then did pastoral work and taught dogmatic theology at the Asti seminary.

He studied in Rome, obtaining a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University. To prepare for a diplomatic career, he entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in 1959. Upon joining the diplomatic service of the Holy See, he served as secretary in nunciatures in Latin America. In 1968 he was assigned to the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in the Vatican.

Apostolic nuncio

On 30 November 1977, Sodano, who spoke English, German, Spanish, French, and Italian, was appointed titular archbishop of Nova Caesaris and apostolic nuncio to Chile, one of the countries where he had served as nunciature secretary. He was consecrated in his native Asti by Cardinal Antonio Samoré on 15 January 1978. He arrived at a difficult moment, with Chile on the brink of war with Argentina over the Beagle Channel and Augusto Pinochet in power. In 1980, together with Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez, he tried without success to get Pinochet to allow the return of certain political exiles, and in 1984 he obtained, at the cost of a dispute between the Holy See and the military government of Chile, safe conduct for four members of the Revolutionary Left Movement, who had sought diplomatic asylum in the nunciature, to leave for Ecuador.

In 1987, when Pope John Paul II visited Chile, Sodano arranged for him to meet in the nunciature the leaders of the opposition to the Pinochet government. The following year, the Pope appointed Sodano Secretary for Relations with States, a post corresponding to that of a foreign minister, and on 1 December 1990 named him Pro-Secretary of State, creating him Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria Nuova (thus making him Secretary of State) on 28 June 1991.

Secretary of State

On 29 June 1991, Sodano became Cardinal Secretary of State, succeeding Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who had retired on 1 December 1990. On 10 January 1994, Pope John Paul II named Sodano Cardinal Bishop of the suburbicarian see of Albano. Sodano retained his relationship to the church of Santa Maria Nuova no longer as titular but in commendam, that is, in trust or in his custody.

On 27 December 1998, he wrote, at the request of the democratic government of Chile, an official letter to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that "the Chilean Government considers it an offence to its territorial sovereignty as a nation the fact of being deprived of the power to judge its own citizens" through the detention of Pinochet in Britain. When in 2002 Sodano turned 75, John Paul invited him to stay on as Secretary of State, though this is the customary retirement age for heads of major Vatican departments. On 30 November 2002, exactly twenty-five years after he was first appointed a bishop, he was elected vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, succeeding Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became dean. In 2003, as the pope's legate to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the election of the Renaissance Pope Julius II, he praised him for his vigorous defence of the Holy See in an age when its temporal role was still critical.

Angelo sodano
Angelo Sodano with Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the U.S. in 2005

Sodano participated as an elector in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. He was not generally considered a likely candidate himself, though he reportedly received a few votes. During the conclave, because Cardinal Ratzinger, the pope-elect, was the dean, Sodano as the sub-dean exercised the dean's duties, asking the pope-elect if he accepted his election and by what name he would be called. At the papal inauguration, Sodano presented Pope Benedict XVI with the Ring of the Fisherman, and he was one of the those who made the public profession of obedience to the new pope.

Sodano's position as Secretary of State expired upon the death of John Paul II. Benedict XVI reappointed him to the position on 21 April 2005, despite the fact that he was past the customary retirement age. On 30 April Benedict ratified Sodano's election to the position of Dean of the College of Cardinals by the suburbicarian cardinal bishops, adding as was customary the suburbicarian see of Ostia to his honorary titles.

On 22 June 2006, Benedict XVI accepted Sodano's resignation as Secretary of State, effective 15 September 2006. On 18 September 2012, Sodano was named by Pope Benedict as one of the Synod Fathers of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Catholic Synod of Bishops.

When Pope Benedict resigned, Sodano as Dean of the College of Cardinals summoned the cardinals for the conclave during the sede vacante and was the principal concelebrant of the Pro eligendo Pontifice mass on the morning the conclave opened. He was not eligible to participate in the conclave, which elected Pope Francis. At the inauguration of the new pope, Sodano, as Dean of the college, presented the Ring of the Fisherman to Francis.

On 21 December 2019, Pope Francis accepted Sodano's resignation as Dean of the College of Cardinals, following the Pope's annual Christmas meeting with officials of the Curia which opens with a greeting by the Dean.


Sodano died of complications from COVID-19 and pneumonia on 27 May 2022, at the age of 94. Pope Francis paid tribute to Sodano, "I recall his diligent work alongside so many of my predecessors, who entrusted him with important responsibilities in Vatican diplomacy, up to the delicate office of Secretary of State. In the Roman Curia, he carried out his mission with exemplary dedication. I, too, was able to benefit from his gifts of mind and heart, especially during the time when he exercised the office of Dean of the College of Cardinals. In every assignment, he showed himself to be an ecclesially disciplined man, an amiable pastor, animated by a desire to spread the leaven of the Gospel everywhere."

In accordance with his wishes, Sodano was interred in the crypt of the cathedral in Asti.


  • 2004: International Vittorino Colombo Prize

See also

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