The Vatican is a city State and the spiritual and temporal headquarter of the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches under the sovereign rule of the Roman Pontiff or Pope.
The official name for the Vatican is:
“ Stato della Citta del Vaticano”
The ecclesiastical, governmental and diplomatic entity of the Vatican is known as the Holy See .
Where is the Vatican Located?
The Vatican is one of the oldest European city state, landlocked, in an enclave within the city of Rome, Italy.
The Vatican enjoys extra-territorial privileges in 28 different places in the Republic of Italy, included among these: the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo and the patriarchal basilicas.
These extra-territorial privileges are similar to those enjoyed by foreign embassies in a host country.
What is a city-state?
Technically, a city-state is a region controlled exclusively by a city, usually having autonomy.
City-states were frequent in ancient times. Though sovereign, many such cities joined in formal or informal leagues under a high king.
Some examples of modern city states include: Monaco, Singapore, Liechtenstein, Washington D.C. and Vatican City.
Did you know?
The Vatican is the smallest state in the world, only 0.44 square kilometers, that is roughly 108 acres of land.
The Vatican is about 0.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC.
The Vatican has a land boundary with Italy of only 3.2 kilometers.
The Vatican has no coastline or maritime claims.
When was the Vatican established?
The Vatican state was established In 1929 by the Lateran treaties . These treaties between Italy and the Holy See granted the Catholic Church with a special status in Italy.
The Vatican is the only vestige left of the Papal states that were seized by the United Kingdom of Italy in the 19 th century.
The Papal states were annexed to Italy after more than a thousand years of secular rule by the Popes in the Italian Peninsula dating back to the 8 th century.
The Papal States
The Papal states is the name given to the extensive lands granted to the Pope in 754 by the Carolingian king Pepin the Short ruler of the franks and the father of Charlemagne.
These lands included vast territories in the Mediterranean coast of France and central Italy including the city of Rome.
These territories were gradually expropriated from the Popes, the last confiscation of land took place in 1870 by the Italian reunification, all that was left was the territory comprising what is now the Vatican and certain papal properties in Italy.
The Lateran Treaties of 1929
The Lateran agreements between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy were signed on February 11, 1929 , and ratified on June7, 1929, putting an end to the “Roman Question ” and the self imposed “exile of the Popes”.
Prior to these concordats, the Popes considered themselves “Prisoners in the Vatican” refusing to leave the enclave as a sign of protest.
The Lateran agreements recognized:
A. The sovereignty of the Holy See and the Vatican state.
B. The recognition of the Church as the official religion of the State.
C. Financial compensation to the Vatican for loss of territory and properties.
Did you know? In a concordat signed in 1984 between Italy and the Holy See, Italy no longer recognizes the Catholic Church as the official state religion.
What is the Roman Question?
The Roman questions is the name given to the long dispute over sovereignty and loss of territories between the Holy See and the Italian government.
This dispute lasted from 1861 to 1929.It was resolved by the Lateran treaties in 1929.
Prior to Lateran treaties the Law of Guarentees granted the Popes immunity and financial compensation. The Popes never accepted this Law.
Did you know?
The Lateran treaty was so called because it was signed in the Lateran palace . This palace was one of the first donations Constantine gave to the Church after the persecutions ended with the edict of Milan in 313.
In 1929, Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) became the first sovereign Pontiff of Vatican city.
Fascist prime minister of Italy Benito Mussolini signed the Lateran agreement on behalf of king Victor Emmanuel III king of the United Kingdom of Italy.
The United Kingdom of Italy came to an end with the birth of the Italian Republic on June 2, 1946. Until then, Italy was ruled by the House of Savoy .
Did you know?
The name Vatican is derived from the Latin word Mons Vaticanus a term that means Vatican Mount, also known as Vatican Hill.
What is the official language of the Vatican?
The official language of the Vatican is Latin . The mother tongue for all the Romance languages like Spanish, French and Rumanian.
Latin is considered a dead language, the Vatican is the only place in the world where one can find ATM machines with directions in Latin.
Latin is used for all the official documents of the Holy See such as: encyclicas .
What type of Government does the Vatican Have?
The Vatican is the only absolute monarchy left in Europe.
According to the new fundamental law of Vatican city promulgated by John Paul II on the Feast of Christ the King, November 26, 2000.
The Supreme Pontiff has absolute power over the executive, legislative and judicial power of the state.
The New fundamental law of Vatican city replaces the old one enacted on 1929 by Pious XI.
The Pope , a word meaning father, is elected for life by a conclave.
The conclave is compose of an electorate of Cardinals called the college of Cardinals all of whom must be under 80 to be eligible to vote.
Upon his election the Pope becomes: Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City . This is his official title as head of state.
The Roman Curia Delegation of Powers for the Vatican State
The Pope exercises representation in international and diplomatic relations, through the Secretary of State , For instance, the secretary of state represents the Pope in the signing of concordats or agreements with other countries.
The legislative power has been delegated to the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State . This commission is comprised of Cardinals elected to a five year term and headed by the President of the Pontifical Commission.
Executive authority is delegated by the Supreme Pontiff to the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission , but he must submit questions of greater importance to this Commission for examination. He is assisted by a General Secretary and by a Deputy General Secretary.
What is the Roman Curia?
The word curia means “court” not in a legal sense but rather in an administrative one.
The Roman curia is the administrative system of the Holy See that ensures the proper management of the Church in all her facets both spiritual and temporal.
The Roman curia is composed of different departments or dicasteries each with an specific purpose in mind.
The offices for the Roman curia are:
A. Secretariat of State
D. Pontifical Councils
E. Synods of Bishops
F. The offices
G. Pontifical Commissions
H. Swiss Guard
I. Institutions connected with the Holy See
J. Labor office
K. Pontifical academics
L. Pontifical Committees
To understand the role of each of these departments please visit the following official link: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/index.htm
Where does the Pope resides?
The Pope resides in the Papal apartments located in the Papal palace also known as the Apostolic palace.
This complex is located in the Vatican and it accommodates the offices of the Roman curia.
Did you know?
The Pope is in official residence from October to June of each year; from July to September the pope is officially in summer residence at Castel Gandolfo .
Three of the last four popes John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II all died in the Papal Apartments; the fourth, Paul VI, died at Castel Gandolfo.
What is the Swiss guard?
The Papal Swiss Guard is the smallest army in the world consisting of only 110 men. The Swiss Guard has a tradition of nearly 500 years -- making it the oldest, continually active military corps in history.
On June 1505, Pope Julius II formally requested the service of Swiss mercenaries -- famed for their courage and loyalty.
On May 6, new recruits are sworn to serve at the Vatican. On this date in 1527, 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending the life of Pope Clement VII, during the sack of Rome .
Requirements to be a Swiss guard are:
Must Be Catholic in good moral standing.
Must be Swiss citizen between the ages of 19-30 years old
Must have attended military school in Switzerland.
Must be at least 174 cm tall
Must be single and have completed high school diploma.
Did you know?
It was an undercover Swiss Guard who helped shield Pope John Paul II during the assassination attempt against his life May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square .
The Vatican has an extensive cultural legacy. Its patrimony is comprised among other things of buildings, art collections, sculptures, antiques, and historical archives.
The following Vatican Museums offer a glimpsed of this vast cultural heritage:
To enjoy a virtual tour of these museums please visit the link below:
Besides the Swiss Guards, Vatican City also maintains a modern security police corps known as the Vatican gendarmes.
The corps is responsible for security, public order, border control, traffic control, criminal investigation, and other general police duties in Vatican City. It has 130 personnel.
Some of the most well known landmarks in the Vatican are:
St. Peter’s Basilica
The Sistine Chapel
Raphael Rooms also known as the stanze of Raphael.
St Peter’s Square
The Apostolic Palace: residence of the Pope.
The Obeliscus Vaticanus
Note: Most of the Vatican is closed to the Public
Did you know?
As of December 31st 2005, there were 557, persons having the Vatican citizenship , of which 58 Cardinals, 293 of the Clergy having status as members of the Pontifical Representations, 62 other members of the Clergy, 101 members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard and 43 other lay persons.
Interesting Facts about the Vatican
The Vatican mints its own coins and issues its own stamps.
The Currency of the Vatican is the Euro
The Vatican has its own heliport, railroad station, printing press, radio station, Television, internet portal, newspaper, fire brigade and bank system.
The Vatican is a permanent U.N. observer
The Vatican has been a U.N observer for about 40 years.
As a U.N observer: the Holy See enjoys, among other things, the right to participate in the general debate of the General Assembly.
The right of reply; the right to have its communications issued and circulated directly as official documents of the Assembly.
And the right to co-sponsor draft resolutions and decisions that make reference to the Holy See.
Link to the Vatican U.N observer website:
Did you know?
The Holy See has one of the largest and the oldest diplomatic representations in the world, with diplomatic relations with 174 countries.
Seventy-one countries have resident Embassies to the Holy See.
The Holy See participates actively in international organizations, and has membership or observer status in the United Nations, European Union, OSCE, OAS, UNHCR, WHO, and World Trade Organization.
The Pope's views and the Holy See's worldwide diplomacy can and do affect an array of U.S. international goals.
Newspaper and Radio
The official newspaper of the Vatican is the L’ Osservatore Romano. It is published in Italian and in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch in a weekly edition.
Vatican Radio is the official radio of Vatican City. It can listened to through a short-wave frequency. It was founded on February 12, 1931.
The Vatican Economy is non-commercial is based on financial contributions from Catholic dioceses from all over the world called Peter’s pence and local revenues from tourism.
Peter’s Pence is a practice dates back to the beginnings of the Church and more formally to the 8 th century’s Anglo-Saxon practice known as Alms of St. Peter.
Peter’s pence contributes among other things to the charitable mission of the Pope and the Holy See all over the world.
Catholics can contribute online by going to the official site website of the Holy See. Credit cards are accepted.
National Symbols “The Flag” and National anthem
The Vatican Flag was officially adopted in 1929. All Catholic Churches and institutions display the Vatican flag
The national anthem is the “Papal march” by 19th century French composer Charles Gounod.
Vatican Heraldry Holy See’s Coat of Arms The Vatican’s Coat of Arms Pope Benedict XVI’s Coat of Arms The Vatican’s zeal
The Vatican’s Official Website
Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to Your shepherd, the Pope, a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love.
By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
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