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VATICAN CITY
Society

Society

State structure

The state of Vatican City came into being in 1929, with the Lateran Treaty. The Pope is the head of state. The Holy See (the office of the Pope and thus the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church) is a separate body. Both bodies are subject to international law. Ambassadors and Ministers are accredited to the Holy See. The Holy See sends diplomatic representatives (Nuntii) to over 120 states and observers and delegates to the United Nations and other international organisations. The Holy See is also a member of several international organisations. Both bodies are united in the person of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, who is at the same time ruler of the state and visible head of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope is protected by the Swiss Guard.

Vatican City is under the temporary jurisdiction of the Pope, who is elected for life by a conclave of the College of Cardinals. He appoints a Papal Commission (headed by a President), which takes care of the administrative tasks of the Vatican City.

The central 'government' of the Roman Catholic Church rests with the Pope and the sacred College of Cardinals.

Politics

On the occasion of the World Day of Peace, the Pope issued a message of peace on 1 January. The theme this year was: 'Forgive and receive peace'. The Church leader pointed to the opportunities for the different religions of the world to speak out against war. According to the Pope, governments and the international community have the task of creating solid structures for maintaining freedom and security for all, which can withstand the whirlwinds of politics. The term Holy See is the formal name of the Vatican's constitutional position and designates the Pope together with the Secretariat of State and the various congregations and papal councils. The Holy See can be regarded as the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Holy See and the Vatican City State are two different concepts. The state of the Vatican City came into being in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty between the Roman Catholic Church and Italy. The Vatican City State is the territory over which the Holy See has sovereignty and as such is also governed by the Holy See. Both bodies are united in the person of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, who is both head of state of the Vatican City and head of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is generally recognised in international law that the Holy See (unlike the Vatican City State) has legal personality. The international legal personality of the Holy See is unique. The Holy See is also a member of some international organisations (OSCE, UNHCR, IAEA) and an observer to others (CoE, UN).

Many countries have representation at the Holy See. Ambassadors and Ministers are accredited to the Holy See. The Holy See sends diplomatic representatives (Nuntii) to over 120 states and observers and delegates to the United Nations and other international organisations. The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 173 countries.

The Vatican City State is under the jurisdiction of the Pope, who is elected for life by a conclave of the College of Cardinals. The Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (type of constitution) give the Pope full legislative, executive and judicial powers. A Commission of Cardinals headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State takes care of the administrative tasks of the Vatican City State. The central 'government' of the Roman Catholic Church rests with the Pope and the College of Cardinals. The Secretariat of State is the most important political institution of the Holy See. There are also congregations and papal councils. The congregations are the executive bodies of the papal government, classified according to their respective fields of expertise, and are like ministries.

The positions of the Holy See on social issues are regularly set down in so-called encyclicals. An encyclical is a letter from the Pope to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated people and faithful lay people in which the Roman Catholic line on a certain subject is discussed.

In March 1995, the papal encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" was published, in which Pope John Paul II particularly opposed abortion and assisted suicide. Since the Roman Catholic Church states that the most fundamental human right is the right to life, the Holy See has made subjects such as abortion and euthanasia the focal points of the human rights issue.

At the end of 2004, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace produced a compendium called the 'Compendium of Social Doctrine'. This compendium offers Roman Catholics a clear and consistent reference work on the positions of the Holy See. This includes subjects such as war and peace, weapons of mass destruction, the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage, globalisation and market thinking, labour and human rights. Previously, the encyclical 'Rerum Novarum' from 1891 was the basis for this. Many encyclicals, papal addresses and other church documents later, the theme has developed into an extensive specialism within Catholic theology.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document on the role of women in August 2004, entitled "On the Cooperation of Men and Women in the Church and the World". It describes that women should be respected and should have the same rights as men in the workplace, but that the differences between the sexes should be recognised and celebrated.

In November 2005, the Congregation for Catholic Formation published the long-awaited instruction on the admission to priestly training and holy orders of persons with homosexual tendencies. The instruction states that under certain conditions these persons can be admitted to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Active' homosexuals are not included. Of course, all priests are bound to celibacy.

In January 2006, Pope Benedict XVI published his first Encyclical, 'Deus Caritas est' (God is Love). At a time when the concept of "love" has become increasingly hollow, the Encyclical attempts to answer the question of what love or "caritas" really is and what function it has in Christianity. This Encyclical does not so much address moral-ethical issues or social topical problems, but rather provides a theological reflection on love. With the choice of a theological theme, the Pope clearly seems to want to put his own stamp on it and thus to want to stimulate believers to self-evaluate.

Economy

The unique economy of the Holy See is financially supported by the annual contributions of the world Church, Roman Catholic foundations and the proceeds of special collections (the sale of stamps, coins, tourist souvenirs, the levying of entrance fees to the museums and the sale of publications) known as the Pieterspenning.

A significant part of the income is also spent on charity projects in the Third World, churches in need, victims of war or natural disasters. In addition, the economy is supported by income from real estate, investments and banking.

The activities of the Holy See cover four areas. One area is the Roman Curia, or the Papal government, which consists of the Secretariat of State, the Congregations, Councils, Tribunals, the Synod of Bishops and several offices. In their service capacity, these do not generate income, but their costs are compensated by donations from the world Church. Furthermore, the Holy See focuses on the financial activities of the various "businesses" of the Holy See, such as the Vatican Radio, the magazine "Osservatore Romano" and Vatican television. The Holy See is also involved in the management of the Holy See's real estate and media activities.


Sources

Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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