Cardinal secretary of State

The Cardinal secretary of State is responsible for the political and diplomatic activities of the Holy See. It is as a result of his many responsibilities that he is referred to as the Prime Minister of the Vatican City or Holy See.

The pope is the one who has the power to appoint the Cardinal secretary of State. The Cardinal secretary of State is required to be a cardinal and he is also one of the principal advisors of the pope. The cabinet secretary office is among the senior most offices of the Roman Catholic Church and the position is a very highly ranked position in the Roman Curia. Once the Cardinal secretary of State is appointed, he serves in this position until the pope who appointed him dies or resigns his papacy. However, the former Cardinal secretary of State can be re-appointed by the new pope.

The office of the Cardinal secretary of State is the second most important office in the Vatican. The secretary is normally responsible for both the Church’s external relations with other countries and the internal relations among the various other offices of the Church. It is the Cardinal secretary of State who decides on who can see the pope and  he also has a big say in suggesting names for papal appointments inside the Vatican and in Vatican embassies around the world.

The office of the Cardinal secretary of State was created by Pope Leo X during the early 16th century. The purpose of the office was to deal with correspondence with the diplomatic missions of the Holy See. At the time of its creation, the position was a minor functionary.

The position of the Cardinal secretary of State was greatly elevated by the Pope Paul VI’s apostolic constitution in 1968. The power of the Cardinal secretary of State was increased and the office was placed above all other departments of the Roman Curia. In 1973, Pope Paul VI eliminated the office of Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church and merged its functions with those of the Cardinal secretary of State.

During the sede vacate period, the Cardinal secretary of State quits the office and 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. This Commission performs some of the functions of the Cardinal secretary of State until a new pope is elected. Immediately after a new pope is elected, his first responsibilities include appointing the Cardinal secretary of State. He can appoint a new secretary or re-appoint the former secretary. Being an important office in the Roman Catholic Church, many popes face challenges deciding who to appoint as the Cardinal secretary of State.