Vatican City State was recognized as a sovereign entity by Italy with the Lateran Treaty of 1929. It includes the Vatican Palace and its gardens, St. Peter's Basilica and the Square and other buildings on its roughly 104 acres.
It is far smaller than any other European state such as Monaco. Other properties not directly on its grounds but under its jurisdiction are several of Rome's churches such as St. John Lateran, as well as Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
The Papal State
It is also called the Papal State and is governed by the pope as the sovereign ruler with executive, legislative and judicial powers. His authority is exercised by delegated groups or commissions of cardinals and high-ranking laymen. Its independence is important in carrying out its religious duties free from interference from any secular state.
Vatican City has its own telephone system, post office, stamps, banking system and coinage, stores, a pharmacy, radio and television stations, and Internet facilities. Almost all supplies such as food, water, gas, electricity are brought in.
There is no income tax and no restriction on the import and export of funds. A printing press, established in 1926, has typefaces of almost every language on earth and prints official Vatican documents.
It is the home of the pope and about 1,000 citizens who are permanent employees, holding Vatican papers, distinct from passports from their countries of origin. Cardinals are counted as Vatican citizens when they are resident in Rome. When citizens leave the Vatican, their citizenship is cancelled and their previous citizenship is reactivated.
There used to be four defence groups: the largely ceremonial Noble Guard and the Palatine Guard of Honour were disbanded in 1968 and the gendarmerie was dissolved in 1971. Only the Swiss Guard, with their distinctive dress, remain to keep order and internal security. The practice of the recruitment of young Swiss men dates back to the 1400s. Italian police patrol St. Peter's Square and any person charged with criminal acts must be extradited to Italy.
This area was known in antiquity as Vatican Hill. The name comes from the Latin Vaticinia, that is, the oracles pronounced by the priests of Apollo. It is located near the west bank of the Tiber River and was pierced by three main roads, which were bordered by burial sites, according to evidence found in excavations.
Several monuments have been unearthed, including a mausoleum, its walls decorated about 250 AD with Christian symbols: Jonas being thrown from the ship, the Good Shepherd, a fisher with his line and in the centre the figure of Christ with a radiant nimbus.
St. Peter's Basilica, was built on this site during the fourth century by Emperor Constantine because it was believed to be the burial place of St. Peter. The altar is thought to be directly over Peter's tomb. Although we cannot be certain, first century bones which could be Peter's have been found.
St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 15th-16th centuries. The famous Sistine Chapel was decorated by Michelangelo between 1536 and 1541 with magnificent frescoes which were restored to their full beauty a few years ago.
The function of the Vatican or Holy See of governing the Catholic Church around the world is carried out by a number of departments or curia (Latin for court): congregations, tribunals, councils, offices and agencies.
Each of these is subdivided into more specific responsibilities as indicated by the titles they bear. For example, one of the Congregations is Divine Worship and the Sacraments, another is Causes of the Saints and another is Catholic Education. Each is governed by a cardinal or bishop.
The Roman Curia is the entire body of the official agencies who assist the pope. They have no independent power, exercising only delegated authority, subject to the pope.
Although Vatican City is small in size, its influence is widespread. Pope John Paul II's recent death brought about a tremendous outpouring of respect and appreciation from people of all walks of life, from all religions, from many nations, both large and small. All had felt his influence in one way or another.
All mourned one they regarded as a spiritual father, a friend, a champion of justice for all and a defender of the ultimate value of the human person. Although much of this was due to his personal qualities, it was only possible because of the independence of his role and the Vatican State from any political influence.