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The Holy See

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The Cardinal Secretary of State—officially Secretary of State of His Holiness The Pope—presides over the Vatican Secretariat of State, which is the oldest and most important dicastery of the Roman Curia.[1] The Cardinal Secretary is regarded as being in charge of the political and diplomatic activities of the Holy See and is thus referred to as being the Holy See's "Prime Minister". Since 1991, Cardinal Secretaries have been Presidents of the Interdicasterial Commission on Particular Churches and Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe.

The current Cardinal Secretary of State is Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone of Italy, who has served since 15 September 2006.


The Cardinal Secretary is appointed by the Pope, and serves as one of his principal advisors. As one of the senior offices in the Catholic Church, the Secretary is required to be a cardinal. If the office is vacant, a non-cardinal may serve as Pro-Secretary of State, exercising the powers of the Secretary of State until a suitable replacement is found or the Pro-Secretary is made a cardinal in a subsequent consistory.

The Cardinal Secretary's term ends when the Pope who appointed him dies or leaves office. During the sede vacante period, the former Secretary acts as a member of a commission with the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church and the former President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, which exercises some of the functions of the head of state of the Vatican City until a new Pope is elected. Once the new Pope is chosen, the former Secretary's role in the commission likewise expires, though he can be (and usually is) re-appointed as Secretary of State.


The office traces its origins to that of secretary intimus, created by Pope Leo X in the early 16th century to handle correspondence with the diplomatic missions of the Holy See, which were just beginning to become permanent postings instead of missions sent on particular occasions. At this stage the secretary was a fairly minor functionary, the Vatican administration being led by the Cardinal Nephew, the Pope's confidant usually taken from his family.

The imprudence of Pope Julius III in entrusting the office of Cardinal Nephew to Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a teenaged, illegitimate, virtually illiterate street urchin whom his brother had adopted a few years earlier, led to an upgrading of the Secretary's job, as the incumbent had to take over the duties the Cardinal Nephew was unfit for. By the time of Pope Innocent X the Secretary of State was always himself a Cardinal, and Pope Innocent XII abolished the office of Cardinal Nephew in 1692. From then onwards the Secretary of State has been the most important of the officials of the Holy See.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI's apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae further enhanced the powers of the Secretary, placing him over all the other departments of the Roman Curia. In 1973 Paul further broadened the Secretaryship by abolishing the ancient office of Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church and merging its functions into those of the Secretary.

Secretaries of State between 1551 and 1644

  • Girolamo Dandini (1551–1555)
  • Carlo Borromeo (1560–1565)
  • Tolomeo Gallio (1565–1566)
  • Girolamo Rusticucci (1566–1572)
  • Tolomeo Gallio (again) (1572–1585)
  • Decio Azzolini (seniore) (1585–1587)
  • Alessandro Peretti de Montalto (Cardinal-Nephew) (1587–1590)
  • Paolo Emilio Sfondrati (Cardinal-Nephew) (1591)
  • Giovanni Antonio Facchinetti de Nuce (Cardinal-Nephew) (1591)
  • Pierbenedetto Peretti (1592–1593)
  • Pietro Aldobrandini (Cardinal-Nephew) (1593–1605)
  • Erminio Valenti (1605)
  • Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese (Cardinal-Nephew) (1605–1621)
  • Ludovico Ludovisi (Cardinal-Nephew) (1621–1623)
  • Lorenzo Magalotti (1623–1628)
  • Lorenzo Azzolini (1628–1632)
  • Pietro Benessa (1632–1634)
  • Francesco Ceva (1634–1643)
  • Giovanni Battista Spada (1643–1644)

Cardinal Secretaries of State since 1644

  1. Giovanni Giacomo Panciroli (1644–1651)
  2. Fabio Chigi (1651–1655); then elected Pope Alexander VII (1655–1667)
  3. Giulio Rospigliosi (1655–1667); then elected Pope Clement IX (1667–1669)
  4. Decio Azzolini the younger (1667–1669)
  5. Federico Borromeo junior (1670–1673)
  6. Francesco Nerli (1673–1676)
  7. Alderano Cybo (1676–1689)
  8. Giambattista Rubini (1689–1691)
  9. Fabrizio Spada (1691–1700)
  10. Fabrizio Paolucci (1700–1721) (1° period)
  11. Giorgio Spinola (1721–1724)
  12. Fabrizio Paolucci (1724–1726) (2° period)
  13. Niccolò Maria Lercari (1726–1730)
  14. Antonio Banchieri (1730–1733)
  15. Giuseppe Firrao sr (1733–1740)
  16. Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (1740–1756)
  17. Alberico Archinto (1756–1758)
  18. Ludovico Maria Torriggiani (1758–1769)
  19. Lazzaro Opizio Pallavicini (1769–1785)
  20. Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1785–1789)
  21. Francesco Saverio de Zelada (1789–1796)
  22. Ignazio Busca (1796–1797)
  23. Giuseppe Doria Pamphili (1797–1799)
  24. Ercole Consalvi, pro-segretary (1800); segretary (1800–1806)
  25. Filippo Casoni (1806–1808)
  26. Giulio Gabrielli the Younger (1808–1814) -Giuseppe Doria Pamphilj, pro-segretary (1808) -Bartolomeo Pacca, pro-segretary (1808–1814)
  27. Ercole Consalvi (1814–1823)
  28. Giulio Maria della Somaglia (1823–1828)
  29. Tommaso Bernetti, pro-segretary (1828–1829) (1° period)
  30. Giuseppe Albani (1829–1830)
  31. Tommaso Bernetti, pro-segretary (1831); cardinal segretario (1831–1836) (2° period)
  32. Luigi Lambruschini (1836–1846)
  33. Tommaso Pasquale Gizzi (1846–1847)
  34. Gabriele Ferretti (1847–1848)
  35. Giuseppe Bofondi (1848–1848)
  36. Giacomo Antonelli (1848–1848)(1° period)
  37. Anton Orioli (1848–1848), cardinal secretary ad interim
  38. Giovanni Soglia Ceroni (1848–1848)
  39. Giacomo Antonelli (1848–1876) (2° period)
  40. Giovanni Simeoni (1876–1878)
  41. Alessandro Franchi (1878–1878)
  42. Lorenzo Nina 1878–1880)
  43. Luigi Jacobini (1880–1887)
  44. Mariano Rampolla (1887–1903)
  45. Rafael Merry del Val (1903–1914)
  46. Domenico Ferrata (Sept–Oct 1914)
  47. Pietro Gasparri (1914–1930)
  48. Eugenio Pacelli (1930–1939) then elected Pope Pius XII
  49. Luigi Maglione (1939–1944)
  50. Domenico Tardini (1958–1961)[2]
  51. Amleto Giovanni Cicognani (1961–1969)
  52. Jean-Marie Villot (1969–1979)
  53. Agostino Casaroli (1979–1990)
  54. Angelo Sodano (1991–2006)
  55. Tarcisio Bertone (2006–present)


  1. "Profile: The Secretariat of State". The Holy See. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  2. Pope Pius XII, having been the Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI, did not name a Secretary after the death of Cardinal Maglione in 1944. Beneath his direct supervision, the duties were divided between two protonotaries apostolic, Domenico Tardini and Giovanni Battista Montini, who in 1952 were both named Pro-Secretary of State, for Extraordinary and Ordinary affairs respectively. In 1954 Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) left the Roman Curia to become Archbishop of Milan, but only under Pope John XXIII was Tardini named a Cardinal and full Secretary.

See also

  • Secretary of State

External links

Template:Foreign relations of the Holy See

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