Main Content

Europe :: Holy See (Vatican City) Print
Page last updated on November 24, 2020
  • Introduction :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Background field listing
    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, threats against minority Christian communities in Africa and the Middle East, the plight of refugees and migrants, sexual misconduct by clergy, international development, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About 1.3 billion people worldwide profess Catholicism - the world's largest Christian faith.
  • Geography :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Location field listing
    Southern Europe, an enclave of Rome (Italy)
    Geographic coordinates field listing
    41 54 N, 12 27 E
    Map references field listing
    Area field listing
    total: 0 sq km
    land: 0.44 sq km
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 258
    Area - comparative field listing
    about 0.7 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC
    Area comparison map: Area comparison map
    Land boundaries field listing
    total: 3.4 km
    border countries (1): Italy 3.4 km
    Coastline field listing
    0 km (landlocked)
    Maritime claims field listing
    none (landlocked)
    Climate field listing
    temperate; mild, rainy winters (September to May) with hot, dry summers (May to September)
    Terrain field listing
    urban; low hill
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: Saint Peter's Square 19 m
    highest point: Vatican Gardens (Vatican Hill) 78 m
    Natural resources field listing
    Land use field listing
    agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 100% (2011 est.)
    Natural hazards field listing
    occasional earthquakes
    Environment - current issues field listing
    some air pollution from the surrounding city of Rome
    Environment - international agreements field listing
    party to: Ozone Layer Protection
    signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution, Environmental Modification
    Geography - note field listing
    landlocked; an 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)
  • People and Society :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Population field listing
    1,000 (2019 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 236
    Nationality field listing
    noun: none
    adjective: none
    Ethnic groups field listing
    Italian, Swiss, Argentinian, and other nationalities from around the world (2017)
    Languages field listing
    Italian, Latin, French, various other languages
    Religions field listing
    Roman Catholic
    Population growth rate field listing
    0% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 193
    Urbanization field listing
    urban population: 100% of total population (2020)
    rate of urbanization: -0.05% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030: PDF
    Major urban areas - population field listing
    1,000 VATICAN CITY (capital) (2018)
    Drinking water source field listing
    improved: total: 100% of population
    unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate field listing
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS field listing
    HIV/AIDS - deaths field listing
    Education expenditures field listing
  • Government :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Country name field listing
    conventional long form: The Holy See (Vatican City State)
    conventional short form: Holy See (Vatican City)
    local long form: La Santa Sede (Stato della Citta del Vaticano)
    local short form: Santa Sede (Citta del Vaticano)
    etymology: "holy" comes from the Greek word "hera" meaning "sacred"; "see" comes from the Latin word "sedes" meaning "seat," and refers to the episcopal chair; the term "Vatican" derives from the hill Mons Vaticanus on which the Vatican is located and which comes from the Latin "vaticinari" (to prophesy), referring to the fortune tellers and soothsayers who frequented the area in Roman times
    Government type field listing
    ecclesiastical elective monarchy; self-described as an "absolute monarchy"
    Capital field listing
    name: Vatican City
    geographic coordinates: 41 54 N, 12 27 E
    time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
    Administrative divisions field listing
    Independence field listing
    11 February 1929; note - the three treaties signed with Italy on 11 February 1929 acknowledged, among other things, the full sovereignty of the Holy See and established its territorial extent; however, the origin of the Papal States, which over centuries varied considerably in extent, may be traced back to A.D. 754
    National holiday field listing
    Election Day of Pope FRANCIS, 13 March (2013)
    Constitution field listing
    history: previous 1929, 1963; latest adopted 26 November 2000, effective 22 February 2001 (Fundamental Law of Vatican City State); note - in October 2013, Pope Francis instituted a 9-member Council of Cardinal Advisors to reform the administrative apparatus of the Holy See (Roman Curia) to include writing a new constitution
    amendments: note - although the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State makes no mention of amendments, Article Four (drafting laws), states that this legislative responsibility resides with the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State; draft legislation is submitted through the Secretariat of State and considered by the pope
    International law organization participation field listing
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
    Citizenship field listing
    citizenship by birth: no
    citizenship by descent only: no
    dual citizenship recognized: no
    residency requirement for naturalization: not applicable

    note: in the Holy See, citizenship is acquired by law, ex iure, or by adminstrative decision; in the first instance, citizenship is a function of holding office within the Holy See as in the case of cardinals resident in Vatican City or diplomats of the Holy See; in the second instance, citizenship may be requested in a limited set of circumstances for those who reside within Vatican City under papal authorization, as a function of their office or service, or as the spouses and children of current citizens; citizenship is lost once an individual no longer permanently resides in Vatican City, normally reverting to the citizenship previously held

    Suffrage field listing
    election of the pope is limited to cardinals less than 80 years old
    Executive branch field listing
    chief of state: Pope FRANCIS (since 13 March 2013)
    head of government: Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro PAROLIN (since 15 October 2013); note - Head of Government of Vatican City is President Cardinal Giuseppe BERTELLO (since 1 October 2011)
    cabinet: Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City appointed by the pope
    elections/appointments: pope elected by the College of Cardinals, usually for life or until voluntary resignation; election last held on 13 March 2013 (next to be held after the death or resignation of the current pope); Secretary of State appointed by the pope
    election results: Jorge Mario BERGOGLIO, former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, elected Pope FRANCIS
    Legislative branch field listing
    description: unicameral Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State or Pontificia Commissione per lo Stato della Citta del Vaticano (7 seats; members appointed by the pope to serve 5-year terms)
    elections: last held on 11 July 2018
    election results: composition - men 7, women 0
    Judicial branch field listing
    highest courts: Supreme Court or Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (consists of the cardinal prefect, who serves as ex-officio president of the court, and 2 other cardinals of the Prefect Signatura); note - judicial duties were established by the Motu Proprio, papal directive, of Pope PIUS XII on 1 May 1946; most Vatican City criminal matters are handled by the Republic of Italy courts
    judge selection and term of office: cardinal prefect appointed by the pope; the other 2 cardinals of the court appointed by the cardinal prefect on a yearly basis
    subordinate courts: Appellate Court of Vatican City; Tribunal of Vatican City
    Political parties and leaders field listing
    International organization participation field listing
    CE (observer), IAEA, Interpol, IOM, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, Schengen Convention (de facto member), SICA (observer), UN (observer), UNCTAD, UNHCR, Union Latina (observer), UNWTO (observer), UPU, WIPO, WTO (observer)
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    chief of mission: Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe PIERRE (since 27 June 2016)
    chancery: 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 333-7121
    FAX: [1] (202) 337-4036
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    chief of mission: Ambassador Callista GINGRICH (since 22 December 2017)
    telephone: [39] (06) 4674-1
    embassy: American Embassy to the Holy See, Via Sallustiana, 49, 00187 Rome
    mailing address: Unit 5660, Box 66, DPO AE 09624-0066
    FAX: [39] (06) 4674-3412
    Flag description field listing
    two vertical bands of yellow (hoist side) and white with the arms of the Holy See, consisting of the crossed keys of Saint Peter surmounted by the three-tiered papal tiara, centered in the white band; the yellow color represents the pope's spiritual power, the white his worldly power
    National symbol(s) field listing
    crossed keys beneath a papal tiara; national colors: yellow, white
    National anthem field listing
    name: "Inno e Marcia Pontificale" (Hymn and Pontifical March); often called The Pontifical Hymn
    lyrics/music: Raffaello LAVAGNA/Charles-Francois GOUNOD

    note: adopted 1950

  • Economy :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Economy - overview field listing

    The Holy See is supported financially by a variety of sources, including investments, real estate income, and donations from Catholic individuals, dioceses, and institutions; these help fund the Roman Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), diplomatic missions, and media outlets. Moreover, an annual collection taken up in dioceses and from direct donations go to a non-budgetary fund, known as Peter's Pence, which is used directly by the pope for charity, disaster relief, and aid to churches in developing nations.

    The separate Vatican City State budget includes the Vatican museums and post office and is supported financially by the sale of stamps, coins, medals, and tourist mementos as well as fees for admission to museums and publication sales. Revenues increased between 2010 and 2011 because of expanded operating hours and a growing number of visitors. However, the Holy See did not escape the financial difficulties experienced by other European countries; in 2012, it started a spending review to determine where to cut costs to reverse its 2011 budget deficit of $20 million. The Holy See generated a modest surplus in 2012 before recording a $32 million deficit in 2013, driven primarily by the decreasing value of gold. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome so most public expenditures go to wages and other personnel costs;. In February 2014, Pope FRANCIS created the Secretariat of the Economy to oversee financial and administrative operations of the Holy See, part of a broader campaign to reform the Holy See’s finances.

    GDP (purchasing power parity) field listing


    Industries field listing
    printing; production of coins, medals, postage stamps; mosaics, staff uniforms; worldwide banking and financial activities
    Labor force field listing
    4,822 (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 221
    Labor force - by occupation field listing

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

    Population below poverty line field listing
    Budget field listing
    revenues: 315 million (2013)
    expenditures: 348 million (2013)
    Taxes and other revenues field listing
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) field listing
    Fiscal year field listing
    calendar year
    Exchange rates field listing
    euros (EUR) per US dollar -
    0.885 (2017 est.)
    0.903 (2016 est.)
    0.9214 (2015 est.)
    0.885 (2014 est.)
    0.7634 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Electricity access field listing
    electrification - total population: 100% (2020)
  • Communications :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Telecommunication systems field listing
    general assessment: automatic digital exchange (2018)
    domestic: connected via fiber-optic cable to Telecom Italia network (2018)
    international: country code - 39; uses Italian system
    note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated
    Broadcast media field listing
    the Vatican Television Center (CTV) transmits live broadcasts of the Pope's Sunday and Wednesday audiences, as well as the Pope's public celebrations; CTV also produces documentaries; Vatican Radio is the Holy See's official broadcasting service broadcasting via shortwave, AM and FM frequencies, and via satellite and Internet connections
    Internet country code field listing
    Communications - note field listing
    the Vatican Apostolic Library is one of the world's oldest libraries, formally established in 1475, but actually much older; it holds a significant collection of historic texts including 1.1 million printed books and 75,000 codices (manuscript books with handwritten contents); it serves as a research library for history, law, philosophy, science, and theology; the library's collections have been described as "the world's greatest treasure house of the writings at the core of Western tradition"
  • Transportation :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Military and Security :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Military and security forces field listing
    Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia); the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City is a police force that helps augment the Pontifical Swiss Guard during the Pope’s appearances, as well as providing general security, traffic direction, and investigative duties for the Vatican City State (2019)
    Military service age and obligation field listing
    Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia): 19-30 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; must be Roman Catholic, a single male, and a Swiss citizen, with a secondary education (2019)
    Military - note field listing
    defense is the responsibility of Italy
  • Transnational Issues :: Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Disputes - international field listing