In the Vatican, after the Pope, the next most powerful position is the Cardinal Secretary of State. He’s #2 in the Zoo! He’s also one of the most influential men in the diplomatic world.

The most important decision now facing Pope Francis is which cardinal will he choose as his Secretary of State?

History has shown that this man will inevitably become Francis’ main ally or main adversary in the drama of the Vatican government that will then unfold. History also shows that it’s usually played out as a zero sum game and not a win-win relationship between the Cardinal Secretary and the Pope.

Wikipedia: The Cardinal Secretary of State—officially Secretary of State of His Holiness The Pope—presides over the Holy See, usually known as the “Vatican”, Secretariat of State, which is the oldest and most important dicastery of the Roman Curia. The Cardinal Secretary is regarded as being in charge of the political and diplomatic activities of the Holy See and is thus referred to as being the Holy See’s and Vatican City’s “Prime Minister”.

There is no current Cardinal Secretary of State, as the heads of most dicasteries resign upon the vacancy of the Holy See. Prior to Pope Benedict’s resignation on February 28, 2013, the Cardinal Secretary of State was Tarcisio Bertone of Italy, who had served since 15 September 2006.

Pope Benedict and His Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone
Pope Benedict and His Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone

ADDENDUM: 15 October 2013.

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his new Secretary of State. He will very likely be given a Red Hat at the next Consistory on February 22, 2014.