Section for Relations with States (Roman Curia)

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The Section for Relations with States or Second Section of the Secretariat of State is the body within the Roman Curia charged with dealing with matters that involve relations with civil governments. It has been part of the Vatican Secretariat of State since 1909.

The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.


It is analogous to the foreign ministry of a state.

A foreign minister or minister of foreign affairs is generally a cabinet minister in charge of a state's foreign policy and relations.


The origin of this body is found in the Congregatio super negotiis ecclesiasticis extraordinariis Regni Galliarum (Congregation on the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Kingdom of France) that Pope Pius VI set up on 28 May 1793 to deal with problems arising for the Church as a result of the French Revolution. After the fall of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII gave it competence for negotiations with all governments about ecclesiastical matters and renamed it the Congregatio extraordinaria praeposita negotiis ecclesiasticis orbis catholici (Extraordinary Congregation in Charge of Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Catholic World). Under Pope Leo XIII, its name was shortened to Congregatio pro negotiis ecclesiasticis extraordinariis (the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs), which remained its title even after Pope Pius X in 1909 made it part of the Secretariat of State. [1]

In the Roman Curia, a congregation is a type of department of the Curia. They are second highest-ranking departments, ranking below the two Secretariats, and above the pontifical councils, pontifical commissions, tribunals and offices.

Pope Pius VI pope and sovereign of the Papal States

Pope Pius VI, born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 15 February 1775 to his death in 1799.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

This arrangement was incorporated into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which described the Secretariat of State as composed of three sections, of which this congregation was the first:

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, also referred to as the Pio-Benedictine Code, was the first official comprehensive codification of Latin canon law. It was promulgated on 27 May 1917 and took legal effect on 19 May 1918. It was in force until the 1983 Code of Canon Law took legal effect and abrogated it on 27 November 1983. It has been described as "the greatest revolution in canon law since the time of Gratian".

The Office of the Secretariat of State, presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State, consists of three sections, in the following order:
1. The First Section, headed by the Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, deals with the matters that must be submitted to it in accordance with canon 255, leaving other matters to specific Congregations in accordance with their different nature;
2. The Second Section, headed by the Substitute [i.e., Alternate Secretary of State), deals with ordinary matters;
3. The Third Section, headed by the Chancellor of Apostolic Briefs, deals with the despatch of Briefs. [2]

In its canon 255, that Code defined the congregation's field of competence as erecting or dividing dioceses and appointing bishops where negotiations with civil governments were involved, and other matters that the Pope might choose to entrust to it, especially those in some linked to civil law and the Holy See's agreements and concordats with states. [3] The Cardinal Secretary of State was concurrently prefect of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs with the secretary equalivant to the current secretary for Relations with States.

Holy See Episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, refers to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law. Founded in the 1st century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and papal primacy according to Catholic tradition, it is the focal point of full communion for Catholics around the world. As a sovereign entity, the Holy See is headquartered in, operates from, and exercises "exclusive dominion" over the independent Vatican City State enclave in Rome, Italy, of which the pope is sovereign. It is organized into polities of the Latin Church and the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.

Concordat agreement or treaty between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state

A concordat is a convention between the Holy See and a sovereign state that defines the relationship between the Catholic Church and the state in matters that concern both, i.e. the recognition and privileges of the Catholic Church in a particular country and with secular matters that impact on church interests.

With the apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae of 15 August 1967, Pope Paul VI, following the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council, reorganized the Secretariat of State, suppressing the Chancery of Apostolic Briefs. He established what had been the First Section as a body distinct from the Secretariat of State, though closely related, and called it the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church. On 28 June 1988, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus , making that same body, under the name "Section for Relations with States", the second of two sections of the Secretariat of State, the first being the Section for General Affairs. [1]

Pope Paul VI Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1963 to 1978

Pope Paul VI was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. Succeeding John XXIII, he continued the Second Vatican Council which he closed in 1965, implementing its numerous reforms, and fostered improved ecumenical relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, which resulted in many historic meetings and agreements. Montini served in the Holy See's Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. While in the Secretariat of State, Montini and Domenico Tardini were considered as the closest and most influential advisors of Pius XII, who in 1954 named him Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini later became the Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference. John XXIII elevated him to the College of Cardinals in 1958, and after the death of John XXIII, Montini was considered one of his most likely successors.

Second Vatican Council Roman Catholic ecumenical council held in Vatican City from 1962 to 1965

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1965.

Pope John Paul II 264th Pope of the Catholic Church, saint

Pope John Paul II was the Pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.

Present competence

Articles 45–47 of Pastor Bonus indicate dealing with heads of government as the special task of the Section for Relations with States. Its field of competence includes fostering diplomatic and other relations with states and other subjects of public international law such as the United Nations and the European Union, dealing with matters of common interest to them and to the Holy See by means such as concordats and similar agreements, while respecting the views of interested episcopal conferences. It represents the Holy See at international organizations and conferences. Where agreements have been made with governments about appointments of bishops and the definition of dioceses, it makes the necessary arrangements in consultation with the congregation that has general competence for such matters in the country in question (generally the Congregation for Bishops). [4]


From the start, this body has been placed under the presidency of the Cardinal Secretary of State. Under him, it is headed by the Secretary for Relations with States, who is aided by a staff that includes the Undersecretary for Relations with States.

The current Secretary for Relations with States is Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, and the current Undersecretary is Monsignor Antoine Camilleri. [5]

List of Secretaries of Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and Secretaries for Relations with States

7 February 1953 – 26 June 1967 Antonio Samorè appointed prefect of Sacred Congregation for Sacramental Discipline
15 August 1967 – 28 April 1979 Agostino Casaroli appointed Pro-Secretary of State
4 May 1979 – 1 March 1988 Achille Silvestrini appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
1 March 1986 – 1 December 1990 Angelo Sodano appointed Pro-Secretary of State to His Holiness
1 December 1990 – 6 October 2003 Jean-Louis Tauran appointed Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
7 October 2003 – 15 September 2006 Giovanni Lajolo appointed President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State
15 September 2006 – 8 November 2014 Dominique Mamberti appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
8 November 2014- present Paul Richard Gallagher

List of Undersecretaries for Relations with States

1989 – 1 December 1990 Jean-Louis Tauran appointed Secretary of Relations with States
1992 – 16 December 1995 Claudio Maria Celli appointed Secretary the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See
16 December 1995 – 30 October 2002 Celestino Migliore appointed Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
30 October 2002 – 17 August 2009 Pietro Parolin appointed nuncio to Venezuela
17 August 2009 – 22 February 2013 Ettore Balestrero appointed nuncio to Colombia
22 February 2013 – present Antoine Camilleri

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  1. 1 2 Profile of the Secretariat of State
  2. Canon 263 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
  3. Canon 255 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
  4. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, Secretariat of State
  5. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN   978-88-209-9070-1), p. 1149