Holy See (Vatican City) Government - 2023


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

Country name

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

ecclesiastical elective monarchy; self-described as an "absolute monarchy"


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

etymology: 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

Administrative divisions



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

Election Day of Pope FRANCIS, 13 March (2013)


history: previous 1929, 1963; latest promulgated November 2000, effective 22 February 2001 (Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, the main governing document of the Vatican's civil entities); the Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus – the departments and ministries – used by the pontiff in governing the church; note - Pope Francis in October 2013, instituted a 9-member Council of Cardinal Advisers to reform the Roman Curia to include writing a new constitution; in June 2018, Pope Francis approved the Council of Cardinals' first draft of the new apostolic constitution, Predicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel); it became effective 5 June 2022, replacing Pastor Bonus, the previous governing document of the Roman Curia

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

Legal system

religious legal system based on canon (religious) law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


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


election of the pope is limited to cardinals less than 80 years old

Executive branch

chief of state: Pope FRANCIS (since 13 March 2013)

head of government: President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City and President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State is Fernando VERGEZ ALZAGA (since 1 October 2021)

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: 2013: Jorge Mario BERGOGLIO, former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, elected Pope FRANCIS

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City or Pontificia Commissione per lo Stato della Citta del Vaticano (7 seats; the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State and 6 cardinals 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

highest court(s): 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


International organization participation

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

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

email address and website:


Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Joe DONNELLY (since 11 April 2022)

embassy: Via Sallustiana, 49, 00187 Rome

mailing address: 5660 Holy See Place, Washington DC  20521-5660

telephone: [39] (06) 4674-1

FAX: [39] (06) 4674-3411

email address and website:

Flag description

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)

crossed keys beneath a papal tiara; national colors: yellow, white

National anthem

name: "Inno e Marcia Pontificale" (Hymn and Pontifical March); often called The Pontifical Hymn

lyrics/music: Raffaello LAVAGNA/Charles-Francois GOUNOD

note: adopted 1950

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 2 (both cultural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Historic Center of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura; Vatican City

NOTE: The information regarding Holy See (Vatican City) on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Holy See (Vatican City) 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Holy See (Vatican City) 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.