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Vatican City


The Holy See

Santa Sede


Vatican lira. One lira equals 100 centesimi. There are coins of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 lire. The Vatican lira is at par with the Italian lira, which also circulates as valid currency within the Holy See. Conversely, Vatican coinssimilar in value, size and denomination to those of Italy, but carrying an image of the head of the Popeare legal tender in Italy, and in San Marino, another tiny city-state in Italian territory. Despite this reciprocal arrangement between Italy and the Holy See, their monetary systems are separate.


Despite having no balance of trade figures, the Holy See registers a gross domestic product (GDP), which was estimated at US$21 million for 1999. The singular nature of the Holy See's economic structure has yielded considerable sums of money. In 1997, the CIA World Factbook recorded state revenues of US$209.6 million, against expenditures (including capital outlays) of US$198.5 million, thus registering an impressive budget surplus of US$11.1 million.


The Holy See imports almost all agricultural produce and other foodstuffs and all manufactured goods from Italy, which supplies all its water, gas, and electricity. It has no agricultural or industrial sectors and exports nothing. It therefore has no balance of trade statistics.



A Southern European state, the Holy See, or State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked urban enclave, situated entirely within the Italian capital city of Rome, which forms its only borders. With an area of only 0.44 square kilometers (0.17 square miles), it is approximately 0.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, D.C. Outside the Vatican's walls, in Rome itself, is the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, together with 13 other buildings that belong to Vatican City and fall under its jurisdiction. The length of the country's border, formed by medieval and renaissance walls except for St. Peter's Square in the southeast, is 3.2 kilometers (2.0 miles). The state, city, and capital are one and the same.


In July 2001, the population of Vatican City was estimated at 890, with an estimated growth rate of 1.15 percent. The birth rate is extremely low by the very nature of the Holy See, which exists primarily as the center of authority over the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. Its citizenry is, therefore, largely ecclesiastical (relating to the Church), supplemented by (often elderly) officers and servants of the Church. However, other dignitaries, as well as priests, nuns, guards, and some 3,000 lay workers actually reside outside the Vatican. There is no such thing as Vatican nationality, although rights of citizenship are conferred on non-Italians, such as members of the Swiss Papal Guard who are the traditional sentries at the city gates. Passports, issued by the Holy See rather than the Vatican state, are for diplomatic purposes only, and possession of a Holy See diplomatic passport does not automatically entitle the holder to rights of entry, residency, or citizenship.

The official language of the state is Italian; the Papal Guard's language, which is made up of Swiss nationals, is German. Several other languages are spoken, and the official acts of the Holy See are documented in Latin.


The Holy See, often referred to as Vatican City or simply the Vatican, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and its ruler, the Supreme Pontiff or Pope. The Holy See is not only the world's smallest independent state, but the workings of its government and financial affairs are unique, as are its non-commercially based economic structures, which do not conform to any conventional pattern. It is therefore not possible to examine or analyze the economy in terms of the usual sectors.

There is much confusion regarding the country's names, the Holy See and Vatican City. According to the country's permanent mission to the United Nations, the term Vatican City refers "to the physical or territorial base of the Holy See, almost a pedestal upon which is posed a much larger and unique independent and sovereign power: that of the Universal [Catholic] Church. The State of Vatican City itself . . . possessed a personality under international law and, because of such, enters into international agreements. However, it is the Holy See which internationally represents Vatican City State." Since 1957, most agreements have been entered into by the Holy See as the supreme authority of the Catholic Church. The Holy See, then, refers to the governing bodies of the nation, while the term Vatican City refers to the physical nation.

The Holy See generates its substantial wealth through worldwide donations to the Church. These voluntary contributions are made by individuals of the Roman Catholic faith, and are known as Peter's Pence. The term dates back to the 8th century, when the custom of collecting money for the Church originated in the early English kingdom of Wessex, which imposed an annual tax of 1 penny (or pence) on each family to send to Rome. The custom spread, and nowadays, the largest sums are given by Catholics in the United States.

The Holy See has a special department to administer the funds that arrive annually and to distribute them according to the needs of organizations, charities, and individuals. However, because there are no rules governing when, how, or how much money is sentor spentit is not possible to give an accurate assessment of this income.

Additional revenues flow in from the massive number of tourists who visit the Vatican, and from international banking and financial activities that yield interest from substantial investments worldwide. A handful of small light-manufacturing enterprises within the state cater to particular domestic requirements such as printing of church publications, the production of uniforms for Vatican staff, the manufacture of religious mementos and mosaics for the tourist market, collectible items such as stamps and coins, and Vatican telephone cards.

Although the Vatican has never developed or promoted an organized tourist industry, tourism contributes significantly to the economy of the tiny state. The Vatican is one of Europe's outstanding tourist attractions. The city is rich in history and priceless cultural treasures, and its unique geographical location makes for its effortless inclusion in the itinerary of any visitor to Rome. Aside from the Basilica of St. Peter's, visitors flock to the Sistine Chapel, whose magnificent ceiling frescoes by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo have been restored, and to the extensive Vatican museums and libraries. Substantial sums come from tourists' purchases of souvenirs (most of them religious in nature), postage stamps, coin issues, and publications, and from admission charges to the Vatican museums, which can accommodate 20,000 visitors daily.

The sale of stamps, in particular the sale of special series to stamp dealers and collectors, has turned into a sizable enterprise since these have great appeal and increase in value within weeks of their issue. A limited number of each series is sold to private dealers and collectors who place advance orders, and the rest to religious orders and other church institutions, which, in turn, sell them on to dealers at a handsome profit. Thus, both the Holy See and the Church as a whole derive considerable gain from the trade in stamps.

State expenditure relates to the maintenance of buildings and infrastructure , the financing of foreign visits made by the Pope or his emissaries, the running costs of diplomatic missions and overseas offices, financing of charities, and the publication of the state's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano .


The Holy See is a monarchical-sacerdotal state, which is to say that it operates as a monarchy in which the Pope is the "king" (monarchical), with senior members of the church hierarchy, appointed by the Pope, as the governing body (sacerdotal). The Pope himself is elected from candidates worldwide by 120 members of the College of Cardinals and is the chief of state as well as head of the Church. Appointed to office for life (the Polish cardinal, Karol Wojtila, became Pope John Paul II in 1978 and was still on the throne in 2001), the Pope has supreme executive, legislative, and judicial power over both the State of the Vatican City and the universal Roman Catholic Church. Given the wide scope of the Pontiff's authority, an intricate and complex structure of official agencies has been established to administer power within carefully designed categories. This structure is commonly known as the Roman Curia and its members are appointed and granted authority by the Pope.

The Holy See is recognized under international law and enters into certain international agreements, but, strictly speaking, it is not a civil state operating under civil laws, but an absolute monarchy in control of the Roman Catholic Church, ruling according to the Apostolic Constitution of 1967. It is as the Holy See rather than the State of the Vatican that the country sends and receives diplomatic representatives to and from around the world. The head of government, generally a cardinal or archbishop whose appointment and authority is conferred by the Pope, is the secretary of state. He presides over the Pontifical Commission, or cabinet. The legal system governing church matters is founded in canon, or ecclesiastical, law but judicial matters outside the Church are dealt with by the Italian judiciary in Rome.

There are no political parties in the country, but all cardinals under the age of 80 have the vote in electoral issues within the Church. Internally, the Swiss Guard has been responsible for the personal safety of the Pope since 1506, but in reality, its function is ceremonial and policing of the state is left to the Civil Guard. There is no military arm, and Italy takes responsibility for defense.

There are no taxes, no restrictions on the import or export of funds, and no customs or excise duties payable in the Vatican City. Employees of the Vatican pay no income tax and no customs duty on gasoline or goods that they buy in the Vatican. Non-Italians enjoy allowances on their monthly salaries.

The Holy See is a member of numerous international organizations and institutions, such as the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), although its status is sometimes that of an observer only. The Holy See is especially active within the framework of the United Nations (UN) and has permanent observer status at the UN's New York headquarters and Geneva offices. This also includes specialized UN branches such as the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, and the Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in Paris. The Holy See has a member delegate attached to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, and engages in diplomatic relations with the European Union (EU) in Brussels.


Vatican City has a heliport connecting to the Rome airport for the convenience of foreign visitors, and an 862-meter (about half a mile) rail track that connects to the Italian network at Rome's Saint Peter's station. This is used solely for carrying freight.

Regular telephone services within the Vatican began after it gained independence in 1929, when a number of telephones were installed via Rome's urban network to link various Vatican offices and residences. The state's first central telephone exchange, donated by American Catholics, was installed in 1930 and provided telephone service to approximately 360 end users. In 1960, this exchange was replaced by a new exchange with a capacity of 1,500 numbers, later expanding to 3,000. In June 1992, the Vatican's third central exchange was inaugurated, providing the city with a highly advanced state-of-theart network, connecting 5,120 terminals, via optic fiber, to TelecomItalia's network and a radio link to extra-territorial zones.

The Vatican has its own post office, pharmacy, publishing house, influential radio station (Radio Vatican broadcasting throughout Europe), an Internet web site, an important observatory that hosts international astronomers' conferences, and a unique banking system that is central to the finances of the state.


There is no conventional service sector in the Holy See although, quite obviously, public service is provided by retail sales people, museum attendants, and other workers necessary to the smooth operation of the city. Financial services provide the most significant economic component of the sector, but again, they operate primarily to generate wealth for Church and state, benefitting only a few handpicked individuals outside of this. No opportunities for private business organizations or enterprises to operate independently are provided within the Vatican's confines.

The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) manages the Holy See's cash and investments, including its patrimony and pension fund. There is a growing demand for public financial reporting, and Pope John Paul II has partly met this demand. A report, Consolidated Financial Statements of the Holy See, is prepared by the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, who acts as the Pope's treasurer. This report, however, only reveals details of the financial administration in the Holy See, a partial disclosure that conceals details of other accounts such as the Vatican Bank and the Vatican City State. It is known, though, that about half the income of the Vatican City State is used to help finance the Holy See.

The heart of the Vatican's finances is the Vatican Bank. The bank's official designation is that of The Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), a title that reveals its original purpose as a body charged with the financing of religious works. However, the Vatican Bank has evolved into a major financial institution, responsible for the investment and administration of all state funds, as well as dealing with the banking requirements of church officials, diplomats, and other servants of the state. The bank is not open to any individuals or corporations outside Vatican City.

The Holy See engages in substantial investments worldwide, which yield huge revenues in interest payments. Details of the state's financial activities tend to be shrouded in secrecy, but it is known that the main avenues of investment are banking, insurance, real estate, utilities, and building. The Holy See also has financial interests in the lucrative production of flour and spaghetti. Investment is largely directed towards companies that cater to basic human needs and are thus fundamentally sound, which contributes to the state's reputation as a prudent investor.

Apart from shares in private enterprise, the Holy See holds a large amount of government bonds and debentures ( titoli and obbligazioni ), and derives a percentage of its income from the rentals of apartments and shops. It owns several thousand hectares of land including some valuable building sites, particularly in the vicinity of Rome, and has gold reserves in Fort Knox.


While it is not known how much personal wealth Vatican citizens have, the state is free of poverty. Although it is the smallest of all countries in terms of population, its estimated GDP per capita of $21,198 makes Vatican City the 18th wealthiest nation in the world per capita. Health and pension provisions are good, and average incomes and living standards of lay workers are generally comparable toand in some cases, better thanthose enjoyed by employees in Rome. No individual, whether or not they are a citizen of the Vatican, may own land within the borders of the state because it is the private domain of the Holy See.

Several hundred lay persons are engaged in secretarial, domestic, trade, and service jobs in the Vatican. The working week is reasonable, although high officials of the Secretariat of State keep longer hours then many senior business executives in other countries. Workers in the Vatican benefit from the numerous religious holidays, and Italians who work in the Holy See are exempt from military service. Swiss Guards are paid a relatively low salary, but are usually young men with private incomes. Civil Guards have higher salaries plus family allowances.

The most highly paid Vatican officials are the cardinals of the Curia. Immediately after appointment to the Curia, a cardinal has two-thirds of his first month's plate (as his salary is known, from the days when he was paid with gold and silver coins presented on a silver plate) deducted and kept aside for his funeral expenses.


The papacy has a very long and complex history, dating back to medieval times. Over the centuries, successive popes came to rule in Papal States across Europe (notably in France) as well as taking control of much of Italy in a secular as well as religious capacity for 1000 years. The present-day Italian capital of Rome was the capital of the Italian Papal State. In the 5th century, the Emperor Constantine I built the Basilica of St. Peter's. After this, Pope Symmachus built a palace nearby, but this did not become the Papal residencethe Vatican Palaceuntil 1377 when the papacy returned from its period of exile in Avignon, France.

It was from this time that a succession of popes most notable among them Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, Leo X, and Clement VIIproved to be committed patrons of the arts, and were variously responsible for building and stocking the magnificent libraries and museums that can be seen today. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, the Papal residence was transferred to the Quirinal Palace, later Italy's royal palace, and now the official residence of the Italian president.

Papal rule ended with the Unification of Italy in 1870, when Victor Emmanuel became king of Italy, and the Papal territories, including Rome, were incorporated into the newly formed Italian state. The papacy retreated to the Vatican, where a succession of popes disputed their position with the Italian government.

In 1929, the Italian government and the Holy See finally reached agreement and signed a treaty recognizing the independence of the Holy See and creating the sovereign State of the Vatican City. Under this agreement, known as the Lateran Accords, the Italian government also awarded the Vatican 750 million lire in cash and 1 billion lire in government bonds as partial compensation for the papal territories annexed by Italy during the process of unification.

In 1984, a major reshuffle of offices in the Roman Curia resulted in the delegation of the routine administration of Vatican City to a pontifically appointed commission of 5 cardinals headed by the Secretariat of State.


Despite the importance of the papacy to the Catholic Church and its role in international affairs, the Holy See's internal workings are little known to Catholics, to world leaders, or to the public at large. The Vatican Bank was the focus of several major financial scandals during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and while much effort has gone into repairing the damage to its reputation, the Vatican may well have to address public disquiet at its secrecy.

The question of who succeeds Pope John Paul II must, as with any papal succession, lend uncertainty to the Vatican since each successive pope rules according to his own principles. Perhaps the major cause for concern, therefore, is whether the papacy learns to adapt far more radically than it has done in the past to the huge changes in society at large. Increasingly, modern-day Catholics are finding the Church stance on issues such as birth control repressive, and if the Church is to retain the loyalty of its billion followers, it will have to modernize certain of its practices.


Vatican City has no territories or colonies.


Bull, George. Inside Vatican. London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., 1982.

Coppa, Frank J. Encyclopaedia of the Vatican and Papacy. London: Aldwych Press; Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

The Holy Father. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Holy See Mission: The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Hutchinson, Robert. When in Rome: An Authorized Guide to the Vatican. London: HarperCollins, 1999.

Pallenberg, Corrado. Vatican Finances. London: Peter Owen, 1971.

Tully, S. "The Vatican's Finances." Fortune. 21 December 1987.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: The Holy See, July 2000. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Olga Kuznetsova

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Vatican City

Vatican City (văt´Ĭkən) or Holy See, officially Holy See (State of the Vatican City), independent state (2005 est. pop. 900), 108.7 acres (44 hectares), within the city of Rome, Italy, and the residence of the pope, who is its absolute ruler. Vatican City may be said to correspond politically to the former Papal States, but it was created as a result of the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between Pope Pius XI and King Victor Emmanuel III (negotiated by Cardinal Gasparri and Mussolini), which ended the so-called Roman Question.

Geographic and Political Extent

The Vatican City is a roughly triangular tract of land within Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber River and west of the Castel Sant'Angelo. In its southeast corner is the piazza of Saint Peter's Church, surrounded by the splendid colonnade. North of the piazza is a quadrangular area containing administrative buildings and the Belvedere Park. West of Belvedere Park are the pontifical palaces, and beyond the palaces lie the Vatican Gardens, which make up half the area of the little state. The Leonine Wall forms the western and southern boundaries.

In the city of Rome are certain important basilicas, churches, and other buildings to which the Italian government extends the rights of extraterritoriality and tax exemption but not papal sovereignty. The basilicas include San Giovanni in Laterno (St. John Lateran), Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), and San Paolo fuori le Mura (St. Paul outside the Walls). The palace of San Callisto at the foot of the Janiculum also shares the immunity of the Vatican, as does the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills outside Rome.

Vatican City has its own citizenship, issues its own currency and postage stamps, and has its own flag and a large diplomatic corps. It is open to visitors all year, and the pope receives callers in public and private audiences. It has its own newspaper (Osservatore Romano), railroad station, and broadcasting facility (first established by Marconi under Pius XI). The seven Vatican universities, including the Pontifical Gregorian Univ., are located in Rome. The political freedom of the Vatican is guaranteed and protected by Italy.

Civil and Church Government

The civil government of Vatican City is headed by the cardinal president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City, which is the state's legislature; the state is governed under the Fundamental Law of 2000. The legal system is based on canon law, and the courts are part of the judicial system of the church. The only court special to Vatican City is a court of first instance for civil and criminal cases arising in the city.

The Vatican is above all the seat of the central government of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of the papacy's vast interest in temporal as well as spiritual affairs, an elaborate bureaucracy has been developed over the course of centuries. The pope governs the church with the College of Cardinals. He may act as he chooses without their consent, but in practice he relies on the cardinals for advice as well as for administration of the church government. The whole administrative body surrounding the pope and responsible to him is called the Curia Romana.

The papal court long had all the characteristics of a royal court, such as elaborate rituals and uniforms, and complex rules of precedence; however, since the reign of Pope John XXIII (1958–63) and the Second Vatican Council, many of the Vatican ceremonies have been greatly simplified. The bodyguard of the pope is the corps of Swiss Guards, founded in the 16th cent. and made up of a small group of Roman Catholic Swiss. Its members wear the splendid Renaissance uniforms designed by Michelangelo.

The Palaces and the Vatican's Treasures

The Vatican palaces are an irregular mass of three-story and four-story buildings, built on long, plain lines and broken by additions and alterations. The papal residence and offices occupy the portion near the colonnade, and the rest is given over to museums and the Vatican Library. The Vatican museums are among the most important in the world; they are the Museo Pio-Clementino, founded in the 18th cent. and containing one of the world's great collections of antiquities; the Chiaramonti Museum, founded in the early 19th cent. and holding a collection of Greek sculptures and Renaissance imitations; the Braccio Nuovo, considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the museums; the Egyptian Museum and the Etruscan Museum, opposite the Braccio Nuovo; and the Pinacoteca Vaticana (opened in 1932), which contains paintings by Giotto, Guercino, Caravaggio, Poussin, and others.

The museums, however, house only part of the Vatican's treasure, for many of the Renaissance and modern paintings are found in the galleries surrounding the various courtyards, such as the Cortile del Belvedere and the Cortile San Damasco. Adjoining the Cortile San Damasco is the building containing the Borgia apartments on the first floor and the Raphael rooms on the second. The works of Raphael and his followers in the building make it one of the most famous artistic monuments in the world. The Vatican Library lies all along the western side of the Giardino della Pigna and Cortile del Belvedere. It is one of the world's richest repositories of ancient and medieval manuscripts in many languages. The principal chapel in the Vatican is the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which was painted (1508–12) by Michelangelo.


The history of the Vatican as a papal residence dates from the 5th cent., when, after Emperor Constantine I had built the basilica of St. Peter's, Pope Symmachus built a palace nearby. The pope usually resided in the Lateran Palace until the "Babylonian captivity" (14th cent.) in Avignon, France. After the return of the papacy to Rome (1377) the Vatican became the usual residence. The Renaissance popes, principally Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X, and Clement VII, were great patrons of the arts, and it was they who began to assemble the great collections and to construct the wonderful galleries. Gregory XIII and Sixtus V spent huge sums on the Vatican and also began the Quirinal, a palace that served as the papal residence from the 17th to the 19th cent., was the Italian royal palace from 1870 to 1946, and is now the home of the president of Italy.


See M. T. Bonney, The Vatican (photographs with explanations, 1940); K. Isper, Vatican Art (1953); R. Neville, The World of the Vatican (1962); P. M. Letarouilly, Vatican (2 vol., 1954–64); A. Lipinsky, The Vatican (tr. 1968); N. Lo Bello, The Vatican Wealth (1971).

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Vatican City State

Vatican City State

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Vatican City State (Holy See)
Region: Europe

Population: 880
Language(s): Italian, Latin
Literacy Rate: 100%

The Holy See, the national entity that is located in what is usually referred to as Vatican City, may be most easily defined as the central government of the Roman Catholic Church. The physical location of this ancient walled enclave is only .44 square kilometers. The total population of Vatican citizens can fluctuate between 400 to approximately 900 residents, with about 3,000 lay people who work within the Vatican but live outside its boundaries. Citizenship is not a birthright; citizens are primarily members of the clergy and can receive their citizenship for short but renewable periods of time as selected by the members of the Holy See. There is no annual birthrate, thus no need for primary schools, but it does consistently have a 100 percent literacy rate.

Besides what is within the Vatican walls, the Holy See also controls around a dozen buildings, such as the Castle Gondolfo (the Pope's summer residence) and many of the pontifical university buildings, which are outside the official boundaries. There are at least 15 educational institutions that have received Pontifical status from the Pope, but most actually exist on the streets of Rome not within the Vatican. The institutes, colleges, and universities do a wide variety of educational tasks from training young seminarians who are to receive their fundamental instruction before ordination up to training clergy from around the world on advanced studies in subjects like the canon law of the church, theology, and spirituality. The students may then return home or serve a mission elsewhere as a pastor, administrator, and/or instructor. Many of the institutions award graduate degrees, including doctorates.

Some of these major institutions of higher education that are actually within Rome's territory but claimed as part of the Vatican, are: Gregorian University (Pontificia Universita Gregoriana), which is paired, in physical plant and study, with the Biblical Institute (Pontificio Insituto Biblico) and its affiliated school, the Oriental Institute (Pontificio Isitutio Orientale); the Lateran University (Pontificia Universita Lateranense); Urban University (Pontificia Universita Urbaniana); St. Thomas Aquinas University (Pontificia Universita S. Tommaso d' Aquino); University of the Holy Cross (Pontificia Universita della Santa Croce); and Salesian University Pontificia Universita Salesiana), founded by St. John Bosco in the mid-1880s, named for a order of priests, brothers, and nuns who had a special devotion to helping young people, especially the poor, through education, activities, and workoften on farms.

The most famous of the universities may be Gregorian University, also known by the affectionate nickname of "The Greg." Its rector is appointed by the Pope and its teachers are almost all Jesuits (Society of Jesus), though not all of its students over the years have been clergy. Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Borgia in 1551, its curriculum includes canon law, theology, philosophy, psychology, social sciences, and church history. It was given its present name years after its founding to honor Pope Gregory XIII (much the way Urban University bares a name popular with popes for centuries), who helped to expand the school. Among its graduates are 16 popes, at least 19 canonized saints, and at least another 24 who have been beatified.

The Ethiopian College, the only school still within the grounds of the Holy See/Vatican City, is a seminar started to train young African males for the priesthood. It has graduated many of the African bishops and cardinals who are now in office. The North American College, like the Ethiopian College, was built for seminarians and priests from that particular continent. It is one of the newest institutions, having been founded about the time of the American Civil War. There are also other, older institutions within Rome's territory, like the Angelicum, run by the Dominicans, where Pope John Paul II took a doctorate.

Within the Vatican are several scholarly and educational institutions. Of great interest to scholars is the Vatican Library (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana), founded by Pope Nicholas V in the mid-1400s. It has been filled with books, manuscripts, and engravings throughout the centuries. It also contains the Vatican School of Librarianship. Next to the Apostolic Library is the Secret Vatican Archives. Obviously, its existence is not a secret, but it does conserve important possessions of the church along with ancient manuscripts and all the correspondence, since 1660, of the Holy See's Secretariat of State. It also runs the Vatican School of Palaeography, Diplomacy, and Archivistry. Additionally, there are three academies established for both study and promotion of the church's beliefs. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is by far the oldest, founded in 1603 when it was called the Academy of the Lynx-Eyed. Its 80 members are appointed by the pope and are chosen from around the globe. Both the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy for Life were founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Michael W. Young

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Vatican City State

Vatican City State

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Vatican City State (Holy See)
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 880
Language(s): Italian, Latin
Literacy rate: 100%

Upon resolving disputes with Italy, the State of the Vatican City (Stato della Citta del Vaticano ) or The Holy See (Santa Sede ) was founded February 11, 1929, creating an independent, landlocked entity essentially within Italy's own capital of Rome. Being the world's smallest physical state and with a 2001 estimated population of just 890, the ecclesiastical government of the Holy See still wields substantial influence due to the roughly 1 billion people worldwide professing Catholicism.

L'Osservatore Romano is the oldest press organization functioning for the Vatican. Founded July 1, 1861, under Pius IX, it became the official newspaper of the Holy See in 1885 under Leo XIII. It publishes weekly editions in French (since 1949), Italian (1950), English (1968), Spanish (1969), Portuguese (1970), and German (1971), with a monthly edition in Polish (1980).

As of 1991, the Vatican Information Service (VIS) of the Holy See Press Office publishes (in English, Spanish, French, and Italian) newsworthy content concerning the pope, the Catholic Church, and the state Monday through Friday of all months except August. Daily, before formal transmission, it faxes and e-mails subscribers the current day's content. Also, the Holy See Press Office daily produces the Holy See Press Office Bulletin (Italian; translations when available) available to all with a version under embargo that is available only to licensed journalists.

Vatican Radio began February 12, 1931, under Pope Pius XI and remains the sole radio station of The Holy See. Since its inauguration, the radio has been managed by the Jesuit order. Programs are broadcast in 34 languages and sent on shortwave (two), medium-wave (three), FM (four), satellite frequencies and on the Internet. Personnel from more than 60 nations staff the radio.

Vatican Television Center (CTV) began in 1983 and became fully recognized by The Holy See in 1996. Like other Vatican media, CTV is concerned with broadcasting activities and messages of the pope and related Catholic Church concerns. It conducts around 130 live broadcasts per annum, produces documentaries, creates a weekly magazine program called Octava Dies that is distributed internationally, and serves as an archival facility for all of its footage. On Sundays the station uses Intelsat to broadcast the pope's Angelus to the United States.

Fides and the Missionary News Agency are the city-state's two news agencies. Along with other media, The Holy See extensively utilizes the Internet to transmit official current and historical information it sees as important for general dissemination. As of 2000, it had 93 Internet service providers located in both the Holy See and in Italy. The homepage of its official English Web site is

Depending on perspective, censorship can be seen to be either an insignificant or a major issue with the Holy See. Appropriate officials must approve all material, media organizations cannot function without permission of governing authorities, and dissenting opinions are tolerated only on certain issues and only within certain parameters. For all practical purposes, the state is the press and the press is the state. However, there is an explicitly communicated sense of expected allegiances and adherences deemed necessary to work under the auspices of the Holy See due to its inextricable bind with religion and in all fairness, it would be difficult not to be aware of this before joining. The state's very existence is based upon what are considered transcendent and eternal principles rather than on solely temporal reasons for governance, but one must question how to deal with such issues when they seem to be exclusionary rather than inclusive. Ethically, this puzzlealong with its concernsquickly spills into the realm of media and the right to communicate.


All the World's Newspapers. Available from

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In The World Fact-book 2001. Available from

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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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Vatican City

Vatican City

Official name: State of the Vatican City (also known as The Holy See)

Area: 0.44 square kilometers (less than 1 square mile)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location (75 meters/248 feet)

Lowest point on land: Unnamed location (19 meters/63 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) total boundary length; all with Italy

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Vatican City (also known as the Holy See) is a tiny urban, landlocked enclave surrounded by Rome, Italy. It is the world's smallest state, located on the west bank of the Tiber River. The Leonine Wall forms the enclave's western and southern boundaries. Vatican City is the administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church; the Pope resides here in a palace west of Belvedere Park. Among Vatican City's other well-known buildings and landmarks is St. Peter's Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world. The Vatican Gardens comprise about half of the total area of Vatican City.


Vatican City has no dependencies. Situated on about 40 hectares (100 acres) outside of Rome, however, is Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer villa. The Italian government grants this property special tax exemptions because of its association with Vatican City. Another similar property is Santa Maria de Galeri, covering about 420 hectares (1,037 acres) and located about 19.3 kilometers (12 miles) from Vatican City.


Vatican City has a temperate climate. The temperature in January averages 7°C (45°F) and in July it averages 24°C (75°F). There is little rainfall in the summer (May through September). Winter, the rainier season, lasts from September through April. Average annual rainfall is 50 centimeters (20 inches).


Although Vatican City is built on a slight hill, the variation in elevation throughout the small country is less than 60 meters (200 feet).


Vatican City is a landlocked enclave completely surrounded by Rome, Italy.


There are no lakes in Vatican City.


Italy's Tiber River flows near the Holy See.


There are no desert areas in Vatican City.


There is no flat or rolling terrain in Vatican City.


Vatican City contains no mountains or volcanoes.


There are no canyons or caves in Vatican City.


There are no plateaus or rock formations in Vatican City.


The Leonine Wall, dating to the ninth century, forms the south and west boundary of Vatican City. Popes fleeing persecution have escaped from Vatican City through a passageway on the top of the wall.



Hirst, Michael, et al. The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1994.

Hutchinson, Robert J. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

McDowell, Bart. Inside the Vatican. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1993.

Pietrangeli, Carlo, ed. Paintings in the Vatican. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.

Reese, Thomas J. Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Web Site

Vatican: The Holy See. (accessed March 12, 2003).

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Vatican City

Vatican City Independent sovereign state, existing as a walled enclave on the w bank of the River Tiber, within the city of Rome. It is the official home of the papacy and an independent base for the Holy See (governing body of the Roman Catholic Church). The first papal residence was established in the 5th century, and it has been the papal home ever since (apart from a brief spell at Avignon in the 14th century). Vatican City did not achieve full independence until 1929. The world's smallest nation, its population of c.1000 (mostly unmarried males) includes the Pope's traditional Swiss Guard of 100. The Commission, appointed to administer the Vatican's affairs, has its own radio service, police and railway station and issues its own stamps and coins. The treasures of the Vatican, notably Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's, attract huge numbers of tourists and pilgrims. The official language is Latin. Area: 0.44sq km (0.17sq mi).

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Vatican City

Vatican City

Culture Name


Alternative Names

Holy See, the Vatican


Identification. The Vatican, or Vatican City, is the center of Roman Catholicism and the residence of the bishop of Rome (the pope). The popes controlled the Papal States in what is now Italy throughout most of the Middle Ages. On 13 May 1871, the new Italian state restricted the pope's temporal authority to the Vatican and Lateran areas of Rome and the rural retreat of Castel Gandolfo. The popes refused to accept the validity of this law until the Concordat of 11 February 1929 gave the Catholic Church special status in Italy and paid an indemnity to the now independent Vatican City.

Location and Geography. The Vatican's 108.7 acres are completely surrounded by Rome.

Demography. There are about 850 Italian and Swiss permanent residents, along with lay workers from Catholic communities around the world.

Linguistic Affiliation. The major languages are Italian and Latin.

Symbolism. The pope represents a link to Saint Peter and Jesus. Vatican ceremonies recall the words and actions of Jesus and his followers. Candles, incense and various rituals carry symbolic meaning. The Vatican is a symbol of Church leadership and its apostolic tradition.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Vatican is a successor to the Papal States, which made up a large area of central Italy. After the unification of Italy, the new state annexed the Papal States after Germany defeated France, which had protected the pope's interests, in the Franco-Prussian War (18701871). The popes refused to leave, declaring themselves "Prisoners of the Vatican," until Benito Mussolini signed agreements in 1929 granting the Church special privileges in Italy and a cash settlement. The Vatican was given independence under papal rule. Since that time, the Vatican has been an independent state that sends and receives ambassadors.

National Identity. The Vatican's identity is religious, not national. It presents itself as transnational and universal.

Ethnic Relations. The Vatican has sought ties with members of all ethnic groups as part of its universal religious identity.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The Vatican is entirely urban. It has many artistic and architectural masterpieces, including Saint Peter's Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel. Despite its small area, there is a sense of openness and comfort.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The major food style is that of Rome. Like other Italians, residents of the Vatican consider their cooking the best in the world. Pope John Paul II caused a furor when he requested Polish cooking from the papal chef.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On New Year's Eve, the Italian tradition is to have the meal of the seven fishes, including eels, conch, and squid. Lamb is a traditional Easter dish. For each of these meals, there is always a pasta course.

Basic Economy. The economy is based on religious work: the Vatican receives contributions from churches around the world. Tourists come to visit religious shrines and view the art. The major commercial activities are organized around religious concerns, the major industry is governance of the Church, and trade is organized around religious goods.

Land Tenure and Property. The Church owns all property in Vatican City and areas outside the Vatican covered by extraterritorial rights.

Division of Labor. The Curia rules the Church under the pope. Its members come from countries around the world and work in many governmental departments. The pope presides over the bureaucracy, delegating and consulting with his subordinates. The heads of the important bureaus tend to be cardinals.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The Vatican is highly stratified. The pope is at the apex of the hierarchy and cardinal-archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests, and others come below him, followed by the heads of bureaus. Lay workers generally rank below the clergy.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Clerical dress marks a person's rank. The pope's white robes distinguish him clearly. Cardinals wear red, and other ranks are noted by their style of dress and rings. Style of clothing, place in a procession line, and seating are also marks of social position.

Political Life

Government. The basic law is the Code of Canon Law. Church councils meet approximately once per century. Bishops' synods meet periodically and offer advice, but the day-to-day running of the Vatican is in the hands of appointed officials who oversee the Curia.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are no political parties, but the positions held by the clergy and the laity cover a wide spectrum of opinion, although those positions are not always equally represented. There is an elaborate code of etiquette for approaching officials. Generally, go-betweens are used to arrange meetings. Much is done informally. There is a feeling that consensus should be reached before decisions are published. Therefore, things are discussed at length before the pope speaks officially.

Social Problems and Control. There is little crime, and the typical problems are disputes over religious doctrine and governance. Strict statements and actions regarding conformity to doctrine, including censorship and the silencing of dissidents, have alternated with attempts at persuasion and expressions of conciliation.

Military Activity. The Vatican is officially neutral in world affairs but can mediate disputes if invited to do so. Swiss guards in medieval uniforms protect the pope and the city.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There are social welfare programs for employees. Catholic charity organizations promote social welfare and change throughout the world.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

In the Vatican, there are no distinctions between church and state. The Vatican works with many secular organizations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The ethos is male-dominated. There have been efforts toward greater gender equality, especially on the part of nuns. However, as long as the priesthood is reserved for males, it will be difficult to achieve such equality. Men hold the vast majority of key positions.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

The married people in the Vatican are mainly commuting workers whose family arrangements are the same as those in Italy.


The Vatican insists on modest and appropriate dress in its sacred places. Quiet is enjoined in sacred areas, and deference to the clergy is expected. There is strict adherence to speaking only when addressed and deferring to senior officials.


Religious Beliefs. The Vatican is a Catholic state whose population is virtually 100 percent Roman Catholic. There is a belief in heaven and hell and in just rewards or punishments for one's actions on earth. There is a belief in a supreme triune God, and various saints are honored. The final judgment and resurrection of the dead are tenets of the faith.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic clergy are the major religious practitioners and can administer the seven sacraments, depending on their rank. Bishops can ordain other priests.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Vatican is a treasure trove of special buildings and shrines. Saint Peter's is the site of Peter's tomb and is built over the original basilica. The Sistine Chapel in the church features the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The Lateral Palace, once the home of the popes, is another magnificent building. Saint Peter's Square is known around the world, and the pope often addresses the world from the square. It is also the site of many of his public masses. The religious calendar of the Catholic Church is followed, along with the rituals appropriate to that calendar.

Death and the Afterlife. The beliefs of the Catholic Church in a life after death, the existence of Purgatory, and the efficacy of prayers for the dead are followed.

Medicine and Health Care

The Vatican has an up-to-date health care system that draws on specialists from around the world.

Secular Celebrations

There are no secular holidays. The major religious feasts are Christmas and Easter, and there are other major holy days and feast days of saints.

The Arts and Humanities

The Church has a long history of supporting the arts. The Vatican is among other things a museum. Its library is a major source of knowledge about the Renaissance and European history.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Vatican is more interested in social sciences than physical sciences. It is not opposed to the physical sciences and has stated its general support for the physical sciences and their compatibility with religion. Within the Vatican, there has been more immediate application of the social sciences, particularly sociology, psychology, and political science.


"Future Doubtful for Bishops' Conferences." America 179 (4): 3, 1998.

Hersey, George L. High Renaissance Art in St. Peter's and the Vatican: An Interpretive Guide, 1993.

Hutchinson, Robert J. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican, 1998.

McDowell, Bart, James L. Stanfield, Elizabeth L. Newhouse, and Charles M. Kogod, eds. Inside the Vatican, 1993.

Reese, Thomas. Inside the Vatican, 1996.

Roncalli, Francesco. Vatican City: Vatican Museums, 1997.

Steinfels, Margaret O'Brien. "How the Vatican Works: An Interview with Thomas J. Reese." Commonweal, 123 (4): 1013, 1996.

Stickler, Alphonso. The Vatican Library: Its History and Treasures, 1989.

Frank A. Salamone

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Vatican Palace

Vatican Palace Residence of the pope within the Vatican City. A building of more than 1000 rooms clustered around a number of courtyards, it contains the papal apartments, the offices of the Vatican City state secretariat, state reception rooms, the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Archive, and the Vatican Library.

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