Holy See (Vatican City)


Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid 19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed. Disputes between a series of "prisoner" popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion. Present concerns of the Holy See include religious freedom, international development, the Middle East, terrorism, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About 1 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.


Southern Europe, an enclave of Rome (Italy)

Geographic coordinates:

41 54 N, 12 27 E


total: 0.44 sq km
land: 0.44 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 3.2 km
border countries: Italy 3.2 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


temperate; mild, rainy winters (September to May) with hot, dry summers (May to September)


urban; low hill

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: unnamed location 19 m
highest point: unnamed location 75 m

Land use:

arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (urban area) (2005)

Geography - note:

landlocked; enclave in Rome, Italy; world's smallest state; beyond the territorial boundary of Vatican City, the Lateran Treaty of 1929 grants the Holy See extraterritorial authority over 23 sites in Rome and five outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo (the Pope's summer residence)


932 (July 2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.01% (2006 est.)


noun: none
adjective: none

Ethnic groups:

Italians, Swiss, other


Roman Catholic


Italian, Latin, French, various other languages


definition: NA
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100%

Country name:

conventional long form: The Holy See (State of the Vatican City)
conventional short form: Holy See (Vatican City)
local long form: Santa Sede (Stato della Citta del Vaticano)
local short form: Santa Sede (Citta del Vaticano)

Government type:



Vatican City


11 February 1929 (from Italy); note - the three treaties signed with Italy on 11 February 1929 acknowledged, among other things, the full sovereignty of the Vatican and established its territorial extent; however, the origin of the Papal States, which over the years have varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to the 8th century

National holiday:

Coronation Day of Pope BENEDICT XVI, 24 April (2005)


new Fundamental Law promulgated by Pope JOHN PAUL II on 26 November 2000, effective 22 February 2001 (replaces the first Fundamental Law of 1929)

Legal system:

based on Code of Canon Law and revisions to it


limited to cardinals less than 80 years old

Executive branch:

chief of state: Pope BENEDICT XVI (since 19 April 2005)
head of government: Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo SODANO (since 1 December 1990)
cabinet: Pontifical Commission appointed by the pope
elections: pope elected for life by the College of Cardinals; election last held 19 April 2005 (next to be held after the death of the current pope); secretary of state appointed by the pope
election results: Joseph RATZINGER elected Pope BENEDICT XVI

Legislative branch:

unicameral Pontifical Commission

Judicial branch:

there are three tribunals responsible for civil and criminal matters within Vatican City; three other tribunals rule on issues pertaining to the Holy See
note: judicial duties were established by the Motu Proprio of Pope PIUS XII on 1 May 1946

Economy - overview:

This unique, noncommercial economy is supported financially by an annual contribution from Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the world (known as Peter's Pence); by the sale of postage stamps, coins, medals, and tourist mementos; by fees for admission to museums; and by the sale of publications. Investments and real estate income also account for a sizable portion of revenue. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.

Labor force - by occupation:

note: essentially services with a small amount of industry; dignitaries, priests, nuns, guards, and 3,000 lay workers live outside the Vatican


revenues: $245.2 million
expenditures: $260.4 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2002)


printing; production of coins, medals, postage stamps; a small amount of mosaics and staff uniforms; worldwide banking and financial activities

Electricity - imports:

NA kWh; note - electricity supplied by Italy

Currency (code):

euro (EUR)

Exchange rates:

euros per US dollar - 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

5,120 (2005)

Telephone system:

general assessment: automatic digital exchange
domestic: connected via fiber optic cable to Telecom Italia network
international: country code - 39; uses Italian system

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 4, FM 3, shortwave 2 (2004)

Television broadcast stations:

1 (2005)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

36 (2005)


none (2005)

Military branches:

Pontifical Swiss Guard (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia)

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of Italy; ceremonial and limited security duties performed by Pontifical Swiss Guard