Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church

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Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church
Camerlengo di Santa Romana Chiesa
Template-Cardinal Camerlengo.svg
Generic coat of arms of Cardinal Camerlengo.
Bishop Farrell in 2007.jpg
Kevin Farrell

since 14 February 2019
Papal household
Apostolic Camera
Style His Eminence
Member of Roman Curia
Council of Cardinals
Reports to The Pope
AppointerThe Pope
Term length Appointment of a new Pope
First holder Jordan of S. Susanna
DeputyVice camerlengo

The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is an office of the papal household that administers the property and revenues of the Holy See. Formerly, his responsibilities included the fiscal administration of the Patrimony of Saint Peter. As regulated in the apostolic constitution Pastor bonus of 1988, the camerlengo is always a cardinal, [1] though this was not the case prior to the 15th century. [2] His heraldic arms are ornamented with two keys one gold, one silver in saltire, surmounted by an ombrellino, a canopy or umbrella of alternating red and yellow stripes. These also form part of the coat of arms of the Holy See during a papal interregnum ( sede vacante ). The camerlengo has been Kevin Farrell since his appointment by Pope Francis on 14 February 2019. The vice camerlengo has been Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari since 1 May 2020. [3]



Until the 11th century, the Archdeacon of the Roman Church was responsible for the administration of the property of the Church (i.e., the Diocese of Rome), but the office's numerous ancient privileges and rights had come to make it a frequent hindrance to independent action on the part of the Pope; as a result, when the last Archdeacon Hildebrand was elected to the papacy as Gregory VII in 1073, he suppressed the Archdiaconate and the prelate entrusted with the supervision of the Apostolic Camera (Camera Apostolica), i.e., the possessions of the Holy See, became known as the Camerarius ("Chamberlain").[ citation needed ] The Camerarius was for centuries a central figure in the Papal court. [4] [5] [6] The name Camerlengo was adopted later, likely after the fashion of Valois-Anjou court. [7]

It was the obligation of the Camerarius to formally establish the death of the pope. Gradually, this evolved in the theory that the camerarius, as the chief of the curia, should conduct normal business even after the death of the pope, and also conduct the burial and the preparation for the new election. this process was evident with Camerarius Boso Breakspeare. [5] During the long sede vacante of 1268 to 1271, the importance of the camerarius was so clear that the Cardinals were ready to elect a new one if he died. [5]

Prior to the 18th century, [8] the Camerlengo enjoyed an income of 10,000 to 12,000 scudi a year out of the Apostolic Camera. He had jurisdiction over all suits involving the Apostolic Camera, and could judge separately or in association with the Clerics of the Apostolic Camera; he was not impeded by Consistory. He has appellate jurisdiction over suits decided by the Masters of the Roads. In a narration of the 18th century, the Camerlengo is the chief officer in the Apostolic Camera, the Financial Council of the Pope. In his office are the Governor of Rome (who is Vice-Chancellor), The Treasurer, the Auditor, the President, the Advocate General, the Fiscal Procurator, the Commissary, and twelve Clerks of the Chamber (one with the special title of Prefect of the Grain Supply, another Prefect of Provisions, another Prefect of Prisons, and another Prefect of Roads). Each Clerk of the Chamber received around 8,000 scudi a year, representing 10% of the business that passes through his office. [9]

The powers and functions of the Camerlengo were diminished considerably in the 19th century, first by the reorganisation of the papal government after the election of Pope Pius VII in 1800, then by the reorganization of the papal government after the return of Pope Pius IX from exile in 1850, and then by the loss of the Papal States in 1860 and the City of Rome in 1870. The chief beneficiary of these changes was the Cardinal Secretary of State. [10] Since early in the 20th century, the offices of Secretary of State and Camerlengo were held concurrently by Pietro Gasparri (1916–1930), Eugenio Pacelli (1935–1939), Jean-Marie Villot (1970–1979), and by Tarcisio Bertone (2007–2013). Since then Pope Francis has appointed as Camerlengo prelates who have not been Secretary of State: Jean-Louis Tauran (2014–2018) and Kevin Joseph Farrell (2019–present).[ citation needed ]


The camerlengo is responsible for the formal determination of the death of the reigning pope; the traditional procedure – abandoned centuries ago – was to call his baptismal name (e.g. "Albine, dormisne?", meaning "[name], are you sleeping?"). [lower-alpha 1] After the pope is declared dead, the camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and cuts it with shears in the presence of the cardinals. This act symbolizes the end of the late Pope's authority and prevents its use in forging documents. The camerlengo then notifies the appropriate officers of the Roman Curia and the dean of the College of Cardinals. He participates in the preparations for the conclave and the pope's funeral.[ citation needed ]

In the past the camerlengo took possession of the pope's last will and took responsibility for revealing its contents. Now the last will of the pope is given to the College of Cardinals and its content is revealed during the first meeting of the College of Cardinals. The only responsibility still in the camerlengo's hands is to safekeep the last will of the pope until the College of Cardinals takes possession of it.[ citation needed ]

Until a successor Pope can be elected, the camerlengo serves as Vatican City's acting sovereign. He is no longer, however, responsible for the government of the Catholic Church when the papacy is vacant; that task was placed in the hands of the College of Cardinals by Universi Dominici gregis (1996). His power is extremely limited, being merely enough to allow Church institutions to continue to operate and perform some basic functions without making any definitive decisions or appointments that are normally reserved to other powers delegated by the pope. Unlike the rest of the Roman Curia, the camerlengo retains his office during the sede vacante period and functions as the executive director of the Vatican's operations, answerable to the College of Cardinals. This is primarily to carry out the College's decisions with regard to the funeral of the late pope and the events leading up to the conclave. The only other people who keep their offices during this time are the Major Penitentiary, the Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, the Papal Almoner, and the Vicars General for Rome and for the Vatican City State. [12]

List of Camerlengos

Those who have held the office of Camerlengo are: [13] [14]

Two Camerlengos have been elected Pope: Gioacchino Pecci (Pope Leo XIII) in 1878 and Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) in 1939. Two others, Cencio Savelli (elected Pope Honorius III in 1216) and Rinaldo Conti di Segni (elected Pope Alexander IV in 1254) were not Camerlengo at the time of their election to the papacy, Cencio having served from 1188 until 1198 and Rinaldo from 1227 until 1231. [lower-alpha 3]


  1. According to Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, Chamberlain of Honor di numero to Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X, who was present at the ceremony of recognition in 1903: "It may also be here mentioned that no such ceremony as striking the dead Pope's forehead with a silver hammer takes place, and that the exact method of calling aloud his name is not tied down to any determinate form, but is left to the discretion of the Cardinal Camerlengo.... In an original [manuscript] diary in my possession written by Domenico Cappelli of Ascoli, who was Master of Ceremonies to five Popes—Alexander VII., Clement IX., Clement X., Innocent XI., and Alexander VIII.—he states that the custom of calling aloud three times the words 'Pater Sancte' was discontinued on the death of Clement X. in 1676. [11]
  2. 1383–1415 camerlengo of the obediences of Avignon and Pisa in the Great Western Schism.
  3. It is sometimes claimed that Cosimo Gentile Migliorati (Pope Innocent VII from 1404 until 1406) was also Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church [18] but no document mentioning him in this capacity has been found. [19]

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  1. Pastor Bonus
  2. Miranda, Salvador. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Reverend Apostolic Chamber". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University. Retrieved 22 February 2010. The camerlengo was often a cardinal, but it became a cardinalitial office only from the XV century.
  3. "Rinunce e Nomine, 01.05.2020" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 1 May 2020. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  4. The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law. Catholic University of America Press. 2016. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1j0pt7h. ISBN   978-0-8132-2904-1. JSTOR   j.ctt1j0pt7h.
  5. 1 2 3 Visceglia, Maria Antonietta (1 January 2011). The Pope's Household And Court In The Early Modern Age. Brill. ISBN   978-90-04-20623-6.
  6. Noble, Thomas F. X. (1984). The Republic of St. Peter : the birth of the Papal State, 680-825. Philadelphia. ISBN   0-8122-7917-4. OCLC   10100806.
  7. Visceglia, Maria Antonietta (1 January 2011). The Pope's Household And Court In The Early Modern Age. Brill. ISBN   978-90-04-20623-6.
  8. Girolamo Lunadoro Gregorio Leti, Relatione della Corte di Roma, e de' Riti che si osservano in esta, suoi Magistrati, Officii, e loro giurisdittione (Genoa: Il Calenzani 1656), pp. 39, 318–320.
  9. Jean Aymon, Tableau de la cour de Rome seconde edition (La Haye: Jean Neaulme, 1726), Chapitre IX–XIV, pp. 256–265.
  10. The Camerlengo. Notes by Prof. J. P. Adams
  11. Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, Sede Vacante, being a Diary written during the Conclave of 1903, with additional Notes on the Accession and Coronation of Pius X (Oxford and London: James Parker and Co. 1903), page 2.
  12. "Universi Dominici Gregis (February 22, 1996) | John Paul II".
  13. Benigni, U. (1913). "Camerlengo"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  14. S. Miranda, Apostolic Chamber
  15. The New Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 423 note 347
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Moroni, Gaetano. Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni. Vol. 99. pp. 127–128.
  17. "Resignations and Appointments, 14.02.2019" (Press release). Press Office of the Holy See. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  18. MIGLIORATI, Cosmato Gentile de', accessed 11 April 2015
  19. H. Kochendörfer, "Päpstliche Kurialen während des grossen Schismas" in Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für Ältere Deutsche Geschichtskunde, Volume 30 (1905), pp. 598–599, esp. 599