Is he considered either a king or a great non-Jewish scholar?

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    Hi, Aaron Ross, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thanks for the bringing this question here. Although they do not directly answer your question, you may be interested in the following (somewhat) related questions: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/39040 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/39045 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27159 and this answer: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/37737. – Fred Mar 1 '15 at 19:47
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    On a lighter note, what's the proper blessing for the Czar? youtube.com/watch?v=TKnOhjH1-9w – Fred Mar 1 '15 at 19:48
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    Additionally, consider the possibility that even if he is considered a monarch of sufficient caliber that a blessing would otherwise be recited, perhaps his status as head of the Catholic religion would render such a blessing inappropriate. – Fred Mar 1 '15 at 22:02
  • @Fred, the Queen of England is in a similar situation vis-a-vis the Anglican Church, so she would also have to be disqualified if that were the case. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/55929/… – Yishai Jun 4 '15 at 18:32
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    @Yishai I guess that's possible, but I'm more inclined to think that that case may be different because her primary and most distinctive role is not that of a religious leader. Further, I don't think she usually wears conspicuous symbols of her religion. So reciting the blessing wouldn't carry the appearance of reciting a blessing over someone in their role as leader of a foreign religion. – Fred Jun 4 '15 at 19:41

The Pope is the head of state and government of the Vatican City, which is an internationally recognised nation-state. As the Vatican even controls a small military (The Swiss Guards).

As an absolute monarch, he has the capacity to exert control over the military (if he desires) and is technically capable of enacting capital punishments in accordance with Canon Law (Catholic Halacha). We may liken this with the President of the United States who has the power to execute or commute capital punishment, for whom one says the berachah for seeing a king, according to R' Ovadia Yosef זצ”ל (see above linked answer).

  • I intentionally avoided probably his greatest power thereon, which is of course pursuant to being Catholic. I'll edit in my other rationales. – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 2 '15 at 16:08
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    Can you cite a source for the existence of capital punishment within Canon Law and the Pope's discretion thereon? – Isaac Moses Mar 2 '15 at 16:30
  • For the scholar blessing, the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch clearly say it has to be a wisdom classically recognized by Judaism, e.g. mathematics, medicine, or music; "not an expert on a foreign faith." – Shalom Mar 2 '15 at 17:08
  • @Shalom, what I meant was that his greatest power over life and death is the ability to damn or save individuals (through Yoshke) – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 2 '15 at 18:23
  • @IsaacMoses, I've never learned hilchot haCatolikim, but I know that there are capital punishments for heresy, among other things in the Canon Codes. I would be more accurate if I had better knowledge of the sources. – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 2 '15 at 18:25

You said correctly that one makes a blessing on a king and on a great non-Jewish scholar.

A king is a head of state. The Poskim debate if one recites this blessing on a president or prime-minister. The blessing is definitely not recited on a powerful person who is not a head of state.

A great non-Jewish scholar is defined as one who has exceptional knowledge in one of the sciences. See Blessings on Wise Men and Kings.

The pope does not meet either condition. There is no blessing for a respected religious leader of a (non-Jewish) religion.

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    The pope is the king of Vatican city – Clint Eastwood Mar 1 '15 at 20:32
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    @ClintEastwood, the Pope is the monarch of Vatican city, but as Prince not King. IIRC though, the beracha on seeing a king was recited for reigning German Princes pre-unification. – J. C. Salomon Mar 1 '15 at 20:51
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    [Vatican City] is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population. It is an ecclesiastical ... state ruled by ... the Pope., so this answer is suspect on the facts. Is his status as ruler sufficient to reach the Halachic definition of a King for the purposes of this Bracha? I don't know. – Yishai Mar 1 '15 at 20:59
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    @J.C.Salomon. There does seen to be a popular conception that princes serve under kings, but this is not necessarily true. Both Monaco and Andorra are principalities, ruled by a princes who are monarchs in their own right. (Andorra is a bit of a special case, mind you.) – TRiG Mar 1 '15 at 21:15
  • Sure, @TRiG; halachikly he's a melech whatever the title is—which is why (as I said) the Reichsfürsten would have the bracha made for them. – J. C. Salomon Mar 1 '15 at 22:48

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