Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a controversial Vatican power broker accused of covering up one of the Catholic Church's most notorious sex abusers, has died at the age of 94.
Sodano, who had been ill for some time and died on Friday night, was secretary of state under two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
He held the No.2 post in the Vatican hierarchy for 16 years between 1990 and 2006.
It was widely believed Sodano, together with John Paul's secretary, then-Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, ran the Church in the final years of the late pope's life as his health deteriorated from Parkinson's and other illnesses. John Paul died in 2005.
In a series of exposes in the National Catholic Reporter in 2010, author Jason Berry, a leading expert on the Church's sex abuse crisis, wrote how Sodano blocked the Vatican from investigating Father Marcial Maciel, disgraced founder of the Legion of Christ religious order.
After John Paul's death, Pope Benedict ramped up investigations of Maciel and removed him in 2006, when the Vatican acknowledged that allegations it had brushed aside for decades were true.
The cult-like Legion of Christ order, whose rules forbade criticising its founder or questioning his motives, later acknowledged that Maciel, who died in 2008, lived a double life as a paedophile, womaniser and drug addict.
Sodano several times denied allegations he was aware of Maciel's double life and that he covered up for him.
In 2010, four years after Pope Benedict replaced Sodano as secretary of state, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna accused Sodano of having blocked a full-scale investigation of former Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.
Groer stepped down as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after allegations he sexually abused young seminarians in the past. He died in 2003 never admitting guilt or facing charges.
Sodano also denied those accusations.
In 2010, victims of clergy sexual abuse condemned Sodano for saying at a public Easter address that abuse was mostly "petty gossip".
Australian Associated Press
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