Vatican City State arises from a treaty between Italy and the Holy See. Head of state is the Pope, owner of all sovereign powers. The government is delegated to a commission of papal-nominated cardinals.
The origin of the Vatican state
On 11 February 1929, with the Lateran Pacts, the historic dispute between Italy and the Holy See ended, originating from the annexation of the papal domains and of Rome to the Savoy Kingdom; and the State of Vatican City was born in the Italian capital.
An area of 44 hectares located on the right bank of the Tiber passes under the sovereignty of the Holy See, the central and supreme organ of the Catholic Church with the pontiff at the top.
The Italian state also recognizes the extraterritoriality of three basilicas and some buildings located outside the Vatican City area. The square that houses the Basilica of San Pietro, although part of the Vatican territory, is subject to international servitude in favor of the Italian State, which is responsible for the police powers over it.
The Vatican City State is therefore created as the territorial base and private patrimony of the Holy See and consequently receives its legal and institutional order from it.
Immediately after the birth of the new state, on June 7, 1929, Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) promulgated a series of laws that determine its constitutional foundations (citizenship, sources of law, administrative structure, public security etc.), including the fundamental law of the state, which organizes the government of Vatican City in the form of an absolute and elective monarchy of a theocratic character. The pontiff, elected by the Sacred College of Cardinals gathered in conclave, is the exclusive holder of legislative, executive and judicial powers.
Between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, the Sacred College of Cardinals holds sovereign powers.
Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State
In 1939, Pius XII (1876-1958) renewed the governance structure of the Vatican, establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, delegated to exercise the personal powers of the pontiff within the state. The role of the Commission, made up of papal-nominated cardinals, consolidated in the following decades, although direct initiatives by the popes in the legislative sphere were not lacking.
In 1969, Paul VI (1897-1978) reformed the political order of the state around the institutional pivot of the Pontifical Commission, which is flanked by a special delegate, appointed by the pope, in charge of the exercise of executive power, whose administrative offshoot is formed by the technical offices of the Governorate, distinguished on the basis of their material skills (health services, security, marital status, economic services, telecommunications, museums, galleries and monuments, etc.).
During the pontificate of John Paul II (1920-2005), the institutional importance of the Pontifical Commission underwent a downsizing, since the Pope, in 1984, delegated his powers to the cardinal secretary of state, who centralized legislative activity in his own hands. .
As a State subordinated to the purposes of the Holy See, Vatican City carries out a very limited international activity of its own, belonging only to organizations without political purposes, such as the Universal Postal Union, the International Telecommunication Union or the International Union for the protection of literary and artistic works.
Since 1984, the entire urban area has become part of the artistic heritage of humanity, The Vatican City is protected under the UNESCO convention of 1972.
It is the Holy See, as an “observer” (and not the Vatican City State), to be represented at the UN, UNESCO, FAO, the Council of Europe and in all the most important international fora. Just as the Holy See is receiving foreign ambassadors and sending apostolic nuncios abroad.
The Vatican City State is therefore a political unicum not only for its territorial dimension, but also for its international dimension.