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Vatican City

Vatican city is a "country" that belongs to the Catholic Church.

Vatican City, also known as “The Holy See”, is the world’s smallest state. It is entirely enclosed by the city of Rome, Italy. The centerpiece of Vatican City is St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most important churches in Christianity. Vatican City is the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church. It is also the home of the pope, who rules the state as an absolute monarch.

Vatican City has diplomatic relations with 177 countries. This widespread international recognition means that just about everyone agrees that Vatican City is a fully independent, sovereign state. The Holy See (Vatican City) is a “permanent observer” at the United Nations. This means that it is a non-voting member of the United Nations.  If Vatican City were to apply for full membership, it would almost certainly be accepted. However, Vatican City has never applied for full membership, because it considers itself to be a religious organization, not a state.

Victims of the Catholic Church child abuse scandal have tried to force the pope to answer questions about the cover-up. The pope has refused, claiming diplomatic immunity. It seems like the pope likes to have it both ways: Vatican City enjoys its status as a sovereign state; however, it does not call itself a state and has never applied for full membership to the U.N.

Anti-Vatican Campaign

Since 1999, thousands of people from all corners of the globe have joined an effort to get Vatican City kicked out of the United Nations. The reasons they give are as follows:

Check Your Understanding

  1. What is the smallest state in the world?
  2. What is another name for Vatican City?
  3. Where is Vatican City located?
  4. Where is St. Peter’s Basilica?
  5. What important religious figure lives in Vatican City?
  6. Who is the monarch (sovereign) of Vatican City?
  7. Is Vatican City a member of the United Nations?
  8. What is the difference between a “permanent observer” and a “full member” of the United Nations?
  9. Why hasn’t Vatican City applied for full membership in the United Nations?
  10. The pope has claimed that no one can force him to answer questions about the Catholic Church child abuse cover-up scandal. On what legal grounds does he make this claim?
  11. Is Vatican City a sovereign state? Explain your answer.