Holy See: Government

Vatican City State Flag
Coat of Arms of Vatican City State

Key Figures

Chief of State: Pope Francis

Head of Government: Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin


Government Name: Vatican City State

Constitution: Adopted: 2000; Aims to guarantee the freedom of the Apostolic See and assure the real and visible independence of the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his mission in the world.

Government Type: Ecclesiastical

Main Powers Election Process Election Cycle Source: ElectionGuide, http://www.electionguide.org/

The president of the commission can enact decrees for the implementation of legal provisions and regulations and, in times of urgent necessity, enact decrees that have the force of law if they are confirmed by the commission within ninety days. Although the Pontifical Swiss Guard is not governed by the Vatican City State (VCS), the president of the commission has access to the guard if needed, in addition to the security forces of the VCS.

The Pope is elected by the college of cardinals, and the secretary of state is appointed by the Pope.

5 years


As noted earlier, where these laws and regulations do not cover certain instances, the Vatican has recourse to Italian laws, to provincial regulations, and to the municipal rules of the city of Rome.

Appointed by the Pope.

1 year


Comprises the laws and regulations of the state of the Vatican city, the code of canon law, the code of civil procedure, the apostolic constitutions, the Lateran Treaty, and the conventions with other foreign states.

7 members are appointed by the Pope.

Life appointment

International Relations

Foreign Policy Trends: The Holy See has one of the largest and oldest diplomatic representations in the world, maintaining diplomatic relations with 175 countries. The Holy See participates actively in international organizations and has membership or observer status in organizations such as the United Nations, Organization for Security and the World Trade Organization.

Regional Trade Blocs: No regional trade blocs.

Treaties: No multilateral military treaties

International Organization Participation  Source: CIA World Factbook

ITUC OAS OPCW OSCE Schengen Convention UN

Note: Click table to see details

Environmental Agreements  Source: CIA World Factbook

Air Pollution Environmental Modification Ozone Layer Protection

Note: Click table to see details

Tax Authority: Information not available

Tax Name: Information not available


CIA World Factbook and U.S. Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets except where stated otherwise.