Reuters

Today Pope Francis changed the Catholic church's teaching on the death penalty.“The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” he said in an official statement from the Vatican. But wait, what is the Vatican and is the Vatican a country?

What is the Vatican? Is the Vatican a country?

Vatican City is a small city-state in Italy, surrounded by Rome, which serves as the headquarters of the Catholic church. "The Vatican" is the palace that is the official residence of the Pope and the seat of government of the Catholic church. The term is also used to describe the authority of the Pope. The Vatican is also known as the Holy See, which technically also includes the bishops of all dioceses throughout the world and their official residences.

So, is the Vatical a country? The Vatican is not a country, although it is an independent entity. The Bible doesn't condone the idea of the Church having its own sovereign nation. But other countries consider the Vatican to be its own sovereign nation, and many have ambassadors to the Vatican. The United States' current ambassador to the Vatican is Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Vatican is not a member of the United Nations, but the Holy See has been granted permanent observer status at the UN.

 

Is the Vatican a government?

The Vatican is an absolute monarchy with the Pope as its sovereign head. The Pope has absolute power over all branches of the government — executive, legislative and judicial. The Legislature of the Vatican is the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, a group of seven Cardinals appointed by the Pope for five-year terms. Any laws written by the commission must be approved by the Pope.

The Vatican doesn't have its own armed forces; the area's security is provided by the Italian army. But the international Hague Convention declared it immune to attack.

When was the Vatican founded and by whom?

The Vatican was founded in 1929 by a treaty between the Catholic Church and the Italian government. It established Vatican City as a distinct city-state. The area had been considered a special site for the Church since a basilica was constructed over what was said to be St. Peter's grave in the 4th century A.D.

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