News outlets have been referring to Cardinal George Pell as the 3rd highest ranked official of the Vatican. I wasn't aware that the Vatican had such hierarchical "rankings". Here's a quote from CNN.

Cardinal George Pell, a senior adviser to Pope Francis and the third-ranking official in the Holy See, is taking leave from the Vatican to fight historical sexual assault charges in his home country of Australia.

In what sense is Cardinal George Pell the 3rd-ranking official in the Holy See?

  • 5
    Better on christianity.stackexchange.com
    – user11643
    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:42
  • 2
    Agree with fredsbend. If you want to know details of Cardinal Pell's position, best to ask where you are likely to find an expert on Vatican heirarchy. Jun 30, 2017 at 13:18
  • 3
    I feel that Skeptics.SE may be a good match for this question, because it's dealing with suspected misinformation, as opposed to seeking expert knowledge.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


Traditionally, the Cardinal Secretary of State represented the number two authority in the Vatican. This official and his department, the Secretariat of State, had wide authority over both foreign affairs and financial matters.

However, in 2014, this role was re-organized, with the Secretary of State keeping the foreign affairs responsibilities (much like the US's Secretary of State) while the financial roles were consolidated into the new Secretariat for the Economy, with George Pell as its first prefect.

In this sense, since the Cardinal Secretary of State was the old number two, the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy could be considered the number 3 job.

However, there are other job titles that could be considered of at least equal importance with those mentioned. Other contenders could be the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, which is the president of the legislature; the Camerlengo, who administers the Vatican City and acts as acting Head of State during a Papal interregnum, or the Dean of the College of Cardinals, who is the second most senior member of the Catholic Church.

  • @GEdgar Pell wasn't fired from his position? Jul 10, 2017 at 16:48
  • @curiousdannii Pell has stood down to fight the criminal charges. I can't find at the moment whether he has resigned permanently, or just taken a leave of absence. Dec 4, 2018 at 14:36

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