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The Vatican State (Stato della Città del Vaticano) is located in the western part of the Italian capital Rome and is the smallest state in the world with an area of 0.4 km². It is the rest of the former Papal State on Italian soil, which received full state sovereignty in 1929 through the Lateran Treaties with the Italian government.

The Vatican is situated on the western bank of the Tiber River on a hill (Mons Vaticanus). The centre of the country is St. Peter’s Church, the burial church of the Apostle Peter and the second largest church in the world. On its northern side are the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Palace, where the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, resides. The Vatican Museums and Gardens, the Governor’s Palace and the Pontifical Academy also belong to the national territory. The Vatican State has its own radio station (Radio Vaticano), post office, telegraph office, railway station and printing works. Outside the delimited territory west of the Tiber, other buildings in and around Rome belong to the territory of the Vatican. These include the churches of San Giovanni in Laterano, San Paolo fuori le mura and the Pope’s summer residence (Castel Gandolfo), about 20 km southeast of Rome.

Population

The Vatican, the official seat of the Pope, is the spiritual and administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, the majority of the population is made up of clergy. The approximately 550 citizens (total population: approx. 700) are cardinals, prelates, members of the Swiss Guard (who are citizens during their period of service) and about 50 lay people. Citizenship of Vatican City is granted “as needed” on a temporary basis and in addition to regular citizenship. The majority of the Vatican’s approximately 3,000 employees do not live in the country and do not have citizenship.

The social and health services for the population are very well developed. The official languages are Latin (for official announcements), Italian and French.

Political system

Vatican City has been a sovereign, independent state since 1929, subordinated to the Holy See, the supreme authority of the World Catholic Church. The Basic Law, which came into force in 2001, applies. The head of state is the Pope (since March 2013 Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Francis), who holds the highest legislative, executive and judicial power. The Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals for life (includes all Cardinals who have not yet reached the age of 80). The Cardinal Secretary of State (since October 2013 Pietro Parolin), as permanent representative of the Pope, is in charge of the secular government of the Vatican State. In the absence of the Pope, the College of Cardinals assumes papal powers. The legislative power lies with the Pontifical Commission (unless the Pope withholds the decision), which is appointed every five years by the Pope. The executive power is exercised by the Governorate of Vatican City. The Vatican City does not have its own army. The Swiss Guard is deployed to guard the Vatican.

Economy

Vatican City is a prosperous state. In 1929 it received from Italy as compensation for the dissolution of the Papal State a sum of about 1.75 billion lire, which was invested profitably and today brings high annual distributions. The State owns real estate, shares in foreign companies and share capital. Other state revenues are generated from the sale of stamps, telephone cards and coins, and from tourism (sale of devotional objects, entrance fees). Donations also account for a significant proportion of government revenue. Vatican City is connected to the Italian rail network and has its own railway station. The currency is the euro.