I was surprised recently to learn that Vatican City had only been a sovereign state since 1929. I knew it was the smallest country in the world (approximately 110 acres), but I had no idea it was so recent and, not being Catholic, I had no idea of all the interesting tidbits I would find.
Again, I am not Catholic, so my apologies if I have misrepresented anything.
- The Papal States were territories in what is now Italy, which were under direct control of the Pope for over 1,000 years, from 754-1870.
- When various city-states were combined into a unified Kingdom of Italy in 1870, the Catholic Church lost the territory they had previously controlled. Unsurprisingly, they were not happy with these new circumstances.
- For almost 60 years, five separate popes refused to leave the Vatican, even though the physical territory did not belong to them. The popes claimed they were being imprisoned by the Kingdom of Italy, even though they refused to recognize the authority of the Kingdom of Italy.
- In 1929, representatives of the Italian government and the Catholic Church signed the Lateran Pacts. The Vatican City State was now a sovereign country, and the Italian government paid them approximately $92 million as compensation for their lost territories. In return, the Pope recognized the authority of Italy, and also promised Vatican neutrality in politics and war.
- Why 1929? I haven’t found a definitive answer, but the Prime Minister of Italy at the time, the one who signed the Lateran Pacts, was Benito Mussolini. Was he already planning ahead for World War II by securing the Vatican’s promise of neutrality?
- The Holy See conducts all diplomatic affairs of the Vatican City State.
- The Vatican City State is an absolute monarchy, with the Pope as the non-hereditary “king”.
- Earlier popes recruited Swiss mercenaries for personal protection. The Pontifical Swiss Guard has served that function since 1506. All are unmarried Catholic Swiss citizens. But don’t let the uniforms fool you. They may be completely useless as camouflage in most situations, but the men who wear those uniforms have completed training with the Swiss Armed Forces and in bodyguard tactics.
- While the Holy See is a member of the United Nations, the Vatican is not.
- The Vatican cannot join the European Union because they are a monarchy and only democracies are accepted.
- There is much debate over how truly neutral the Vatican remained during World War II. There are plenty of books and articles you can read for more information. As always, especially with a topic involving both politics and religion, please check your sources and don’t believe everything you read.
- Unlike most countries, you cannot be born into being a citizen of Vatican City State. You can only become a citizen by being appointed by the King, who is also the Pope, and you are only appointed if you work for the Pope.
I’m actually disturbed by the fact that the Catholic Church has its own country now that I know it is less than a century old. I guess it didn’t bother me when I believed it was a relic of history. Now I’m having issues with it. Which religion is next?