|Capital|| Vatican City (de facto)|
(with extraterritorial properties around Rome, Italy)
|Ecclesiastical jurisdiction|| Diocese of Rome |
(universal full communion)
|Working languages||Italian (administrative and diplomatic) |
|Type||Apostolic episcopal see of the Bishop of Rome, the pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church|
|Government||Unitary Christian theocratic elective absolute monarchy|
|Sovereign subject of international law|
| 1st century by Saint Peter |
("Prince of the Apostles")
| Early Church – Antiquity |
(Canon law; legal history)
|728 (territory in Duchy of Rome by Lombard King Liutprand)|
|756 (sovereignty in Duchy of Rome reaffirmed by Frankish King Pepin)|
1075: Dictatus papae
1177: Treaty of Venice (sovereignty reaffirmed by Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire)
(under the Kingdom of Italy)
(Lateran Treaty with Italy)
The Holy See (Latin : Sancta Sedes, Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈsaŋkta ˈsedes] ; Italian : Santa Sede [ˈsanta ˈsɛːde] ), also called the See of Rome, Petrine See or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Pope in his role as the bishop of Rome. It includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome, which has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Catholic Church and the sovereign city-state known as the Vatican City.
According to Catholic tradition it was founded in the first century by Saints Peter and Paul and, by virtue of Petrine and papal primacy, is the focal point of full communion for Catholic Christians 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, of which the pope is sovereign.
The Holy See is administered by the Roman Curia (Latin for "Roman Court"), which is the central government of the Catholic Church.The Roman Curia includes various dicasteries, comparable to ministries and executive departments, with the Cardinal Secretary of State as its chief administrator. Papal elections are carried out by part of the College of Cardinals.
Although the Holy See is sometimes metonymically referred to as the "Vatican", the Vatican City State was distinctively established with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, between the Holy See and Italy, to ensure the temporal, diplomatic, and spiritual independence of the papacy.As such, papal nuncios, who are papal diplomats to states and international organizations, are recognized as representing the Holy See, and not the Vatican City State, as prescribed in the Canon law of the Catholic Church. The Holy See is thus viewed as the central government of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, in turn, is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.
The Holy See maintains bilateral diplomatic relations with 183 sovereign states, signs concordats and treaties, and performs multilateral diplomacy with multiple intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations and its agencies, the Council of Europe, the European Communities, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Organization of American States.
The word "see" comes from the Latin word sedes, meaning 'seat', which refers to the episcopal throne (cathedra). The term "Apostolic See" can refer to any see founded by one of the Twelve Apostles, but, when used with the definite article, it is used in the Catholic Church to refer specifically to the see of the Bishop of Rome, whom that Church sees as the successor of Saint Peter.While Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is perhaps the church most associated with the papacy, the actual cathedral of the Holy See is the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in the city of Rome.
In the Roman Catholic Church, only the see of the pope bears the right to be addressed symbolically as "holy".However, there was one exception to this rule, represented by the Bishopric of Mainz. During the Holy Roman Empire, the former Archbishopric of Mainz (which was also of electoral and primatial rank) had the privilege to bear the title of "the Holy See of Mainz" (Latin: Sancta Sedes Moguntina).
The apostolic see of Diocese of Rome was established in the 1st century by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, then the capital of the Roman Empire, according to Catholic tradition. The legal status of the Catholic Church and its property was recognised by the Edict of Milan in 313 by Roman emperor Constantine the Great, and it became the state church of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 by Emperor Theodosius I.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the temporal legal jurisdisction of the papal primacy was further recognised as promulgated in Canon law. The Holy See was granted territory in Duchy of Rome by the Donation of Sutri in 728 of King Liutprand of the Lombards, and sovereignty by the Donation of Pepin in 756 by King Pepin of the Franks.
The Papal States thus held extensive territory and armed forces in 756–1870. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Roman Emperor by translatio imperii in 800. The pope's temporal power peaked around the time of the papal coronations of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from 858, and the Dictatus papae in 1075, which conversely also described Papal deposing power. Several modern states still trace their own sovereignty to recognition in medieval papal bulls.
The sovereignty of the Holy See was retained despite multiple sacks of Rome during the Early Middle Ages. Yet, relations with the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy Roman Empire were at times strained, reaching from the Diploma Ottonianum and Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe Roma regarding the "Patrimony of Saint Peter" in the 10th century, to the Investiture Controversy in 1076–1122, and settled again by the Concordat of Worms in 1122. The exiled Avignon Papacy during 1309–1376 also put a strain on the papacy, which however finally returned to Rome. Pope Innocent X was critical of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 as it weakened the authority of the Holy See throughout much of Europe. Following the French Revolution, the Papal States were briefly occupied as the "Roman Republic" from 1798 to 1799 as a sister republic of the First French Empire under Napoleon, before their territory was reestablished.
Notwithstanding, the Holy See was represented in and identified as a "permanent subject of general customary international law vis-à-vis all states" in the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815).The Papal States were recognised under the rule of the Papacy and largely restored to their former extent. Despite the Capture of Rome in 1870 by the Kingdom of Italy and the Roman Question during the Savoyard era (which made the pope a "prisoner in the Vatican" from 1870 to 1929), its international legal subject was "constituted by the ongoing reciprocity of diplomatic relationships" that not only were maintained but multiplied.
The Lateran Treaty on 11 February 1929 between the Holy See and Italy recognised Vatican City as an independent city-state, along with extraterritorial properties around the region. Since then, Vatican City is distinct from yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See (Latin : Sancta Sedes). [ citation needed ]
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The Holy See is one of the last remaining seven absolute monarchies in the world, along with Saudi Arabia, Eswatini, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Brunei and Oman.The pope governs the Catholic Church through the Roman Curia. The Curia consists of a complex of offices that administer church affairs at the highest level, including the Secretariat of State, nine Congregations, three Tribunals, eleven Pontifical Councils, and seven Pontifical Commissions. The Secretariat of State, under the Cardinal Secretary of State, directs and coordinates the Curia. The incumbent, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is the See's equivalent of a prime minister. Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, acts as the Holy See's minister of foreign affairs. Parolin was named in his role by Pope Francis on 31 August 2013.
The Secretariat of State is the only body of the Curia that is situated within Vatican City. The others are in buildings in different parts of Rome that have extraterritorial rights similar to those of embassies.
Among the most active of the major Curial institutions are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees the Catholic Church's doctrine; the Congregation for Bishops, which coordinates the appointment of bishops worldwide; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees all missionary activities; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which deals with international peace and social issues.
Three tribunals exercise judicial power. The Roman Rota handles normal judicial appeals, the most numerous being those that concern alleged nullity of marriage.The Apostolic Signatura is the supreme appellate and administrative court concerning decisions even of the Roman Rota and administrative decisions of ecclesiastical superiors (bishops and superiors of religious institutes), such as closing a parish or removing someone from office. It also oversees the work of other ecclesiastical tribunals at all levels. The Apostolic Penitentiary deals not with external judgments or decrees, but with matters of conscience, granting absolutions from censures, dispensations, commutations, validations, condonations, and other favors; it also grants indulgences.
The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See coordinates the finances of the Holy See departments and supervises the administration of all offices, whatever be their degree of autonomy, that manage these finances. The most important of these is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
The Prefecture of the Papal Household is responsible for the organization of the papal household, audiences, and ceremonies (apart from the strictly liturgical part).
One of Pope Francis's goals is to reorganize the Curia to prioritize its role in the Church's mission to evangelize. This reform insists that the Curia is not meant to be a centralized bureaucracy, but rather a service for the pope and diocesan bishops that is in communication with local bishops' conferences. Likewise more lay people are to be involved in the workings of the dicasteries and in giving them input.
The Holy See does not dissolve upon a pope's death or resignation. It instead operates under a different set of laws sede vacante . During this interregnum, the heads of the dicasteries of the Curia (such as the prefects of congregations) cease immediately to hold office, the only exceptions being the Major Penitentiary, who continues his important role regarding absolutions and dispensations, and the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, who administers the temporalities (i.e., properties and finances) of the See of St. Peter during this period. The government of the See, and therefore of the Catholic Church, then falls to the College of Cardinals. Canon law prohibits the College and the Camerlengo from introducing any innovations or novelties in the government of the Church during this period.
In 2001, the Holy See had a revenue of 422.098 billion Italian lire (about US$202 million at the time), and a net income of 17.720 billion Italian lire (about US$8 million). According to an article by David Leigh in the Guardian newspaper, a 2012 report from the Council of Europe identified the value of a section of the Vatican's property assets as an amount in excess of €680m (£570m); as of January 2013, Paolo Mennini, a papal official in Rome, manages this portion of the Holy See's assets—consisting of British investments, other European holdings and a currency trading arm. The Guardian newspaper described Mennini and his role in the following manner: "... Paolo Mennini, who is in effect the pope's merchant banker. Mennini heads a special unit inside the Vatican called the extraordinary division of APSA – Amministrazione del Patrimonio della Sede Apostolica – which handles the 'patrimony of the Holy See'."
The orders, decorations, and medals of the Holy See are conferred by the pope as temporal sovereign and fons honorum of the Holy See, similar to the orders awarded by other heads of state.
The Holy See has been recognized, both in state practice and in the writing of modern legal scholars, as a subject of public international law, with rights and duties analogous to those of States. Although the Holy See, as distinct from the Vatican City State, does not fulfill the long-established criteria in international law of statehood—having a permanent population, a defined territory, a stable government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states—its possession of full legal personality in international law is shown by the fact that it maintains diplomatic relations with 180 states, that it is a member-state in various intergovernmental international organizations, and that it is: "respected by the international community of sovereign States and treated as a subject of international law having the capacity to engage in diplomatic relations and to enter into binding agreements with one, several, or many states under international law that are largely geared to establish and preserving peace in the world."
Since medieval times the episcopal see of Rome has been recognized as a sovereign entity. The Holy See (not the State of Vatican City) maintains formal diplomatic relations with and for the most recent establishment of diplomatic relations with 183 sovereign states, and also with the European Union, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as having relations of a special character with the Palestine Liberation Organization; 69 of the diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See are situated in Rome. The Holy See maintains 180 permanent diplomatic missions abroad, of which 74 are non-residential, so that many of its 106 concrete missions are accredited to two or more countries or international organizations. The diplomatic activities of the Holy See are directed by the Secretariat of State (headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State), through the Section for Relations with States. There are 13 internationally recognized states with which the Holy See does not have relations. The Holy See is the only European subject of international law that has diplomatic relations with the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) as representing China, rather than the government of the People's Republic of China (see Holy See–Taiwan relations).
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office speaks of Vatican City as the "capital" of the Holy See, although it compares the legal personality of the Holy See to that of the Crown in Christian monarchies and declares that the Holy See and the state of Vatican City are two international identities. It also distinguishes between the employees of the Holy See (2,750 working in the Roman Curia with another 333 working in the Holy See's diplomatic missions abroad) and the 1,909 employees of the Vatican City State.The British Ambassador to the Holy See uses more precise language, saying that the Holy See "is not the same as the Vatican City State. ... (It) is the universal government of the Catholic Church and operates from the Vatican City State." This agrees exactly with the expression used by the website of the United States Department of State, in giving information on both the Holy See and the Vatican City State: it too says that the Holy See "operates from the Vatican City State".
The Holy See is a member of various international organizations and groups including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Telecommunication Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Holy See is also a permanent observer in various international organizations, including the United Nations General Assembly, the Council of Europe, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
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The Holy See participates as an observer to African Union, Arab League, Council of Europe, Organization of American States, International Organization for Migration, and in the United Nations and its agencies FAO, ILO, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNESCO, UN-HABITAT, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, WFP, WHO, WIPO. It participates as a guest in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and as a full member in IAEA, OPCW, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Although the Holy See is closely associated with Vatican City, the independent territory over which the Holy See is sovereign, the two entities are separate and distinct. After the Italian seizure of the Papal States in 1870, the Holy See had no territorial sovereignty. In spite of some uncertainty among jurists as to whether it could continue to act as an independent personality in international matters, the Holy See continued in fact to exercise the right to send and receive diplomatic representatives, maintaining relations with states that included the major powers Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. Where, in accordance with the decision of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the Nuncio was not only a member of the Diplomatic Corps but its dean, this arrangement continued to be accepted by the other ambassadors. In the course of the 59 years during which the Holy See held no territorial sovereignty, the number of states that had diplomatic relations with it, which had been reduced to 16, actually increased to 29.
The State of the Vatican City was created by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 to "ensure the absolute and visible independence of the Holy See" and "to guarantee to it indisputable sovereignty in international affairs." Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See's former Secretary for Relations with States, said that Vatican City is a "minuscule support-state that guarantees the spiritual freedom of the pope with the minimum territory".
The Holy See, not Vatican City, maintains diplomatic relations with states.Foreign embassies are accredited to the Holy See, not to Vatican City, and it is the Holy See that establishes treaties and concordats with other sovereign entities. When necessary, the Holy See will enter a treaty on behalf of Vatican City.
Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See has extraterritorial authority over various sites in Rome and two Italian sites outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo. The same authority is extended under international law over the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in a foreign country.
Though, like various European powers, earlier popes recruited Swiss mercenaries as part of an army, the Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II on 22 January 1506 as the personal bodyguards of the pope and continues to fulfill that function. cm (5 ft 9 in) in height. Members are armed with small arms and the traditional halberd (also called the Swiss voulge), and trained in bodyguarding tactics.It is listed in the Annuario Pontificio under "Holy See", not under "State of Vatican City". At the end of 2005, the Guard had 134 members. Recruitment is arranged by a special agreement between the Holy See and Switzerland. All recruits must be Catholic, unmarried males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces with certificates of good conduct, be between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 175
The police force within Vatican City, known as the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, belongs to the city state, not to the Holy See.
The Holy See signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a binding agreement for negotiations for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The main difference between the two coats of arms is that the arms of the Holy See have the gold key in bend and the silver key in bend sinister(as in the sede vacante coat of arms and in the external ornaments of the papal coats of arms of individual popes), while the reversed arrangement of the keys was chosen for the arms of the newly founded Vatican City State in 1929.
The pope, also known as supreme pontiff, Roman pontiff or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, head of the worldwide Catholic Church, and has also served as the head of state or sovereign of the Papal States and later the Vatican City State since the eighth century. From a Catholic viewpoint, the primacy of the bishop of Rome is largely derived from his role as the apostolic successor to Saint Peter, to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus, who gave Peter the Keys of Heaven and the powers of "binding and loosing", naming him as the "rock" upon which the Church would be built. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013.
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. The Roman Curia is the institution which the Roman Pontiff ordinarily makes use of in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office and universal mission in the world. It is at the service of the Pope, successor of Peter, and of the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, according to the modalities that are proper to the nature of each one, fulfilling their function with an evangelical spirit, working for the good and at the service of communion, unity and edification of the Universal Church and attending to the demands of the world in which the Church is called to fulfill its mission.
Vatican City, officially the Vatican City State, is an independent city-state, microstate and enclave within Rome, Italy. Also known as the Vatican, the state became independent from Italy in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty, and it is a distinct territory under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See, itself a sovereign entity of international law, which maintains the city state's temporal, diplomatic, and spiritual independence. With an area of 49 hectares and a 2019 population of about 453, it is the smallest state in the world both by area and population. As governed by the Holy See, Vatican City State is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various origins. After the Avignon Papacy (1309–1377) the popes have mainly resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.
The politics of Vatican City take place in a framework of a theocratic absolute elective monarchy, in which the Pope, religiously speaking, the leader of the Catholic Church and Bishop of Rome, exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the Vatican City, a rare case of non-hereditary monarchy.
The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the pope from 756 until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from the 8th century until the unification of Italy, between 1859 and 1870.
The Lateran Treaty was one component of the Lateran Pacts of 1929, agreements between the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and the Holy See under Pope Pius XI to settle the long-standing Roman Question. The treaty and associated pacts were named after the Lateran Palace where they were signed on 11 February 1929, and the Italian parliament ratified them on 7 June 1929. The treaty recognized Vatican City as an independent state under the sovereignty of the Holy See. The Italian government also agreed to give the Roman Catholic Church financial compensation for the loss of the Papal States. In 1948, the Lateran Treaty was recognized in the Constitution of Italy as regulating the relations between the state and the Catholic Church.
Sede vacante is a term for the state of a diocese while without a bishop. In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the term is used to refer to the vacancy of the bishop's or Pope's authority upon his death or resignation.
A prisoner in the Vatican or prisoner of the Vatican described the situation of the Pope with respect to Italy during the period from the capture of Rome by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy on 20 September 1870 until the Lateran Treaty of 11 February 1929. Part of the process of Italian unification, the city's capture ended the millennium-old temporal rule of the popes over central Italy and allowed Rome to be designated the capital of the new nation. Although the Italians did not occupy the territories of Vatican Hill delimited by the Leonine walls and offered the creation of a city-state in the area, the Popes from Pius IX to Pius XI refused the proposal and described themselves as prisoners of the new Italian state.
Pietro Gasparri, GCTE was a Roman Catholic cardinal, diplomat and politician in the Roman Curia and the signatory of the Lateran Pacts. He served also as Cardinal Secretary of State under Popes Benedict XV and Pope Pius XI.
The Secretariat of State is the oldest dicastery in the Roman Curia, the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. It is headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State and performs all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. The Secretariat is divided into three sections, the Section for General Affairs, the Section for Relations with States, and, since 2017, the Section for Diplomatic Staff.
The Roman question was a dispute regarding the temporal power of the popes as rulers of a civil territory in the context of the Italian Risorgimento. It ended with the Lateran Pacts between King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Pope Pius XI in 1929.
Holy See–Italy relations refers to the special relationship between the Holy See, which is sovereign over the Vatican City, and the Italian Republic.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Vatican City:
This is an index of Vatican City–related topics.
Holy See–United Kingdom relations are foreign relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.
The Holy See has long been recognised as a subject of international law and as an active participant in international relations. One observer has stated that its interaction with the world has, in the period since World War II, been at its highest level ever. It is distinct from the city-state of the Vatican City, over which the Holy See has "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction".
The history of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus responsible for managing the affairs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, can be traced to the 11th century when informal methods of administration began to take on a more organized structure and eventual a bureaucratic form. The Curia has undergone a series of renewals and reforms, including a major overhaul following the loss of the Papal States, which fundamentally altered the range and nature of the Curia's responsibilities, removing many of an entirely secular nature.
The legal status of the Holy See, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, both in state practice and according to the writing of modern legal scholars, is that of a full subject of public international law, with rights and duties analogous to those of states.
The Law of Guarantees, sometimes also called the Law of Papal Guarantees, was the name given to the law passed by the senate and chamber of the Italian parliament, 13 May, 1871, concerning the prerogatives of the Holy See, and the relations between State and Church in the Kingdom of Italy. It guaranteed sovereign prerogatives to the Roman Pontiff, who had been deprived of the territory of the papal states. The popes refused to accept the law, as it was enacted by a foreign government and could therefore be revoked at will, leaving the popes without a full claim to sovereign status. In response, the popes declared themselves prisoners of the Vatican. The ensuing Roman Question was not resolved until the Lateran Pacts of 1929.