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History will show that the Vatican's controversial ex-number two man was "generous and faithful" in his work for the Holy See, Pope Francis has said in a book presented Tuesday.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who held the influential post equivalent to the Vatican's prime minister, presented his book on "Vatican Diplomacy in a Globalised World" to journalists a month after stepping down.
In the preface, Francis defends the actions of his predecessor pope Benedict XVI's right-hand man -- a divisive figure appointed in 2006 who was disliked by many for his management style.
"History... will make clear the intense work done by Cardinal Bertone," who gave "generous and faithful support" to Benedict's papacy, Francis wrote.
Bertone, 79, was replaced in October by veteran diplomat Pietro Parolin, who has yet to fully take up his post at the Vatican following an operation.
The Vatican has not provided details on 58-year-old Parolin's health but it is reported he suffers from liver problems.
Top clerics had repeatedly asked Benedict to dismiss Bertone, accused of being too authoritarian and too connected with sleazy Italian politics.
A series of leaks of confidential Vatican papers last year by Benedict's personal butler revealed infighting between pro- and anti-Bertone factions.
Bertone's image also suffered because his time in office coincided with a traumatic period for the Vatican, shaken by revelations of widespread child abuse and scandals involving its finances.
In September, Bertone lashed out at his critics, saying he had been the victim of "moles and vipers" in the Vatican system.