He was Cardinal Secretary of State from 1991 to 2006, under both popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. On 27 April 2005, he was elected to succeed Benedict XVI as Dean of the College of Cardinals by his fellow Cardinal Bishops. Sodano was the first person since 1828 to serve as Dean and Secretary of State at the same time.
On 21 December 2019, the Legion of Christ discovered that Sodano was the one who led efforts to cover up the reports of abuse when he was serving as Secretariat of State. Sodano was accused of seeking a deal to bury documents detailing abuse. The same day, Pope Francis accepted Sodano's resignation as Dean of the College of Cardinals.
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