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Secretary of State of His Holiness
Secretarius Status Sanctitatis Suae
Segretario di Stato di Sua Santità
Coat of arms of the Vatican City.svg
Cardinal Pietro Parolin par Claude Truong-Ngoc juillet 2021.jpg
Pietro Parolin
since 15 October 2013
Secretariat of State
StyleHis Eminence
Member ofRoman Curia
Council of Cardinals
Reports toThe Pope
AppointerThe Pope
Term lengthAppointment of a new Pope
Formation20 November 1551
First holderGirolamo Dandini
Unofficial namesCardinal Secretary of State

The Secretary of State of His Holiness (Latin: Secretarius Status Sanctitatis Suae, Italian: Segretario di Stato di Sua Santità), commonly known as the Cardinal Secretary of State, presides over the Holy See's Secretariat of State, which is the oldest and most important dicastery of the Roman Curia.[1] The Secretariat of State performs all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See and the Vatican City. The Secretary of State is sometimes described as the prime minister of the Holy See,[2] even though the nominal head of government of Vatican City is the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.

The Secretary of State is currently Cardinal Pietro Parolin.[3]


The Cardinal Secretary is appointed by the Pope, and serves as one of his principal advisors. As one of the senior offices in the Roman Catholic Church, the secretary is required to be a cardinal. If the office is vacant, a non-cardinal may serve as pro-tem 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.[4]

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 re-appointed as Secretary of State.[4]


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The office traces its origins to that of secretarius 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 his alleged lover Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a teenaged, 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.


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Secretaries of State between 1551 and 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 (iuniore) (1667–1669)
  5. Federico Borromeo (iuniore) (1670–1673)
  6. Francesco Nerli (iuniore) (1673–1676)
  7. Alderano Cybo (1676–1689)
  8. Giambattista Rubini (1689–1691)
  9. Fabrizio Spada (1691–1700)
  10. Fabrizio Paolucci (1700–1721) (first time)
  11. Giorgio Spinola (1721–1724)
  12. Fabrizio Paolucci (1724–1726) (second time)
  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-secretary (1800); secretary (1800–1806)
  25. Filippo Casoni (1806–1808)
  26. Giulio Gabrielli the Younger (1808–1814) -Giuseppe Doria Pamphilj, pro-secretary (1808) -Bartolomeo Pacca, pro-secretary (1808–1814)
  27. Ercole Consalvi (1814–1823)
  28. Giulio Maria della Somaglia (28 September 1823 – 17 January 1828)
  29. Tommaso Bernetti, pro-secretary (17 June 1828 – 10 February 1829) (first time)
  30. Giuseppe Albani (31 March 1829 – 30 November 1830)
  31. Tommaso Bernetti, pro-secretary (21 February – 10 August 1831); cardinal secretary (10 August 1831 – 12 January 1836) (second time)
  32. Luigi Lambruschini (12 January 1836 – 1 June 1846)
  33. Tommaso Pasquale Gizzi (8 August 1846 – 5 July 1847)
  34. Gabriele Ferretti (17 July 1847 – 31 December 1848)
  35. Giuseppe Bofondi (1 February – 10 March 1848)
  36. Giacomo Antonelli (10 March – 3 May 1848) (first time)
  37. Anton Orioli (5 May – 4 June 1848), cardinal secretary ad interim
  38. Giovanni Soglia Ceroni (4 June – 29 November 1848)
  39. Giacomo Antonelli (29 November 1848 – 6 November 1876) (second time)
  40. Giovanni Simeoni (18 December 1876 – 7 February 1878)
No. Name From Until Appointer
Alessandro Franchi (cropped).jpg
Alessandro Franchi
5 March 1878 31 July 1878 † Leo XIII
Lorenzo Nina.jpg
Lorenzo Nina
9 August 1878 16 December 1880
Lodovico Jacobini.jpg
Luigi Jacobini
16 December 1880 28 February 1887 †
Laszlo - Cardinal Mariano Rampolla.jpg
Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro
2 July 1887 20 July 1903
Rafael Merry del Val3.jpg
Rafael Merry del Val y Zulueta
12 November 1903 20 August 1914 Pius X
Domenico Ferrata2.jpg
Domenico Ferrata
4 September 1914 10 October 1914 † Benedict XV
Pietro Gasparri.jpg
Pietro Gasparri
13 October 1914 7 February 1930
Mgr. Pacelli, Papal Nuncio LCCN2014716384.jpg
Eugenio Pacelli
9 February 1930 10 February 1939 Pius XI
Cardinal Maglione.JPG
Luigi Maglione
10 March 1939 22 August 1944 † Pius XII
Office vacant[5]
Monsignor Domenico Tardini.jpg
Domenico Tardini
15 December 1958 30 July 1961 † John XXIII
Amleto Giovanni Cicognani
12 August 1961 30 April 1969
Jean-Marie Villot 1978.jpg
Jean-Marie Villot
2 May 1969 9 March 1979 † Paul VI
Agostino Casaroli - S M de Medellin (cropped).jpg
Agostino Casaroli
1 July 1979 1 December 1990 John Paul II
Angelo Cardinal Sodano.jpg
Angelo Sodano
29 June 1991 15 September 2006
Tarcisio Bertone.jpg
Tarcisio Bertone
(b. 1934)
15 September 2006 15 October 2013 Benedict XVI
Ināra Mūrniece tiekas ar Svētā Krēsla Valsts sekretāru (26363562894)-1(cropped).jpg
Pietro Parolin
(b. 1955)
15 October 2013 Incumbent Francis

In popular culture

Silvio Orlando portrayed fictional Cardinal Secretary of State Voiello in the 2016 Sky Italia Sky Atlantic HBO Canal+ co-produced television series The Young Pope and the 2019 follow-up series The New Pope.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Profile: The Secretariat of State". The Holy See. Archived from the original on 6 May 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  2. ^ "The Vatican's secretary of state visits Moscow for the first time in 19 years". The Economist. 25 August 2017. Archived from the original on 25 August 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b "Roman Curia | Roman Catholicism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 30 August 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  5. ^ 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 protonotary 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.
  6. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (4 August 2015). "Paolo Sorrentino's 'Young Pope' Rounds Out Cast With James Cromwell And Slew Of Top International Talent". Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2020.