|In Governance of Universal Church
VATICAN CITY, 23 JUNE 2006 (ZENIT)
The Vatican secretary of state who,
beginning Sept. 15 will be Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is "the Pope's
first collaborator in the governance of the universal Church."
This is the description made of the holder of this office in the
Vatican's Web page, which presents the history and organization of the
Secretariat of State.
"The Secretariat of State," says the apostolic constitution "Pastor
Bonus," "provides close assistance to the Supreme Pontiff in the
exercise of his supreme office."
The origins of the Secretariat of State go back to the 15th century. The
apostolic constitution "Non Debet Reprehensibile" of 1487 established
the Secretaria Apostolica comprising 24 apostolic secretaries, one of
whom bore the title Secretarius Domesticus and held a position of
Pope Leo X established another position, the Secretarius Intimus, to
assist the cardinal who had control of the affairs of state and to
attend to correspondence in languages other than Latin, chiefly with the
apostolic nuncios (who at that time were evolving into permanent
From these beginnings, the Secretariat of State developed, especially at
the time of the Council of Trent.
For a long time, the Secretarius Intimus, also called Secretarius Papae
or Secretarius Maior, was almost always a prelate, often endowed with
It was only at the beginning of the pontificate of Innocent X that
someone already a cardinal and not a member of the Pope's family was
called to this high office. Pope Innocent XII definitively abolished the
office of cardinal nephew, and the powers of that office were assigned
to the cardinal secretary of state alone.
In 1814, Pope Pius VII established the Sacred Congregation for the
Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, expanding the Congregation Super
Negotiis Ecclesiasticis Regni Galliarum established by Pope Pius VI in
With the apostolic constitution "Sapienti Consilio" of 1908, Pope Pius X
divided the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs
in the form fixed by the Code of Canon Law of 1917 (Canon 263) and he
specified the duties of each of the three sections: the first was
concerned essentially with extraordinary affairs, while the second
attended to the ordinary affairs, and the third, until then an
independent body (the Chancery of Apostolic Briefs), had the duty of
preparing and dispatching pontifical briefs.
With the apostolic constitution "Regimini Ecclesiae Universae" of 1967,
Pope Paul VI reformed the Roman Curia, implementing the desire expressed
by the bishops in the Second Vatican Council.
This gave a new face to the Secretariat of State, suppressing the
Chancery of Apostolic Briefs, formerly the third section, and
transforming the former first section, the Sacred Congregation for the
Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, into a body distinct from the
Secretariat of State, though closely related to it, which was to be
known as the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church.
On June 28, 1988, Pope John Paul II promulgated "Pastor Bonus," which
introduced a reform of the Roman Curia and divided the Secretariat of
State into two sections: the Section for General Affairs and the Section
for Relations with States, which incorporated the Council for the Public
Affairs of the Church.
This guaranteed both unity of purpose and the specificity required in
the service which the Secretariat of State is called to offer a pope.
The Section for General Affairs or the First Section is responsible for
handling matters regarding the everyday service of the Supreme Pontiff,
both in caring for the universal Church and in dealing with the
dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
It attends to the preparation of whatever documents the Holy Father
entrusts to it. It enacts the provisions for appointments within the
Roman Curia and keeps custody of the Lead Seal and the Fisherman's Ring.
It regulates the duties and activity of the Holy See's representatives,
especially in relation to the local Churches. It attends to all that
concerns the embassies accredited to the Holy See.
It supervises the Holy See's official communication agencies and is
responsible for publishing the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and the Annuario
The First Section of the Secretariat of State is headed by an
archbishop, the substitute for general affairs, (currently Archbishop
Leonardo Sandri) assisted by a prelate, the assessor for general
affairs. The position of the substitute first appeared in the
hierarchical listing of the Secretariat of State in 1814.
The Section for Relations with States or Second Section has the specific
duty of attending to matters which involve civil governments.
It has responsibility:
for the Holy See's diplomatic relations with states, including the
establishment of concordats or similar agreements;
for the Holy See's presence in international organizations and
in special circumstances, by order of the Supreme Pontiff and in
consultation with the competent dicasteries of the Curia, provides for
appointments to particular Churches, and for their establishment or
in close collaboration with the Congregation for Bishops, it attends to
the appointment of bishops in countries which have entered into treaties
or agreements with the Holy See in accordance with the norms of
The Second Section is headed by an archbishop, the secretary for
relations with states (who until Sept. 15 is Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo),
aided by a prelate, the undersecretary for relations with states, and
assisted by cardinals and bishops. ZE06062306