VATICAN CITY: Protecting Faith, Family and Life


– It is the smallest independent state in the world, covering only forty-four hectares, and the residence of the spiritual leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Its territory is completely surrounded by the Italian capital of Rome.

– It is governed as an absolute monarchy.  The Head of State is the Pope who holds full legislative, executive and judicial powers.

– Vatican City has no automatic citizenship – not through birthright, marriage, etc.  Citizenship is issued only to those who work at the Vatican and their spouses and children.  This is revoked when they stop working there.  Hence, it has no permanent citizens.  

– A good number of Vatican citizens are nuncios and diplomatic staff.  There are only around 550 Holy See passport holders while the state’s resident population (those who live on the grounds without being citizens) is estimated at 900 people.  Priests and nuns of many nationalities make up much of the resident population.

– It has a unique judicial system. Its legal foundations are rooted in the Code of Canon Law, papal decrees, the Lateran Pacts, and Italian and Roman municipal laws.  Of the half-dozen different tribunal systems at the Vatican, just one deals specifically with the maintenance of law and order.  

– In 2011, there were 640 civil cases and 226 penal cases.  Such figures suggest that the Vatican City State, has the highest crime rate in the world, roughly 1.5 crimes per person.  

– The vast majority of penal cases handled by the court involve theft, especially by pickpockets.  The massive crowds of tourists (18 million people every year) make Vatican City a pickpocket’s paradise.  The situation is complicated by the fact that the Vatican has no working prison and only one judge.  While there is certainly crime and punishment in the Vatican, at the end of the day, mercy and pardon are also given an important place in the administration of justice. 


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