Politics of Vatican City

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Vatican City flag

The politics of Vatican City take place in a framework of an absolute theocratic elective monarchy, in which the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the State of the Vatican City1 (an entity distinct from the Holy See), a rare case of non-hereditary monarchy.

The pope is elected in the Conclave, composed of all the cardinal electors (now limited to all the cardinals below the age of 80), after the death or resignation of the previous Pope. The Conclave is held in the Sistine Chapel, where all the electors are locked in (Latin cum clave) until the election for which a two-thirds majority is required. The faithful can follow the results of the polls (usually two in the morning and two in the evening, until election) by a chimney-top, visible from St. Peter's Square: in a stove attached to the chimney are burnt the voting papers, and additives make the resulting smoke black (fumata nera) in case of no election, white (fumata bianca) when the new pope is finally elected. The Dean of the Sacred College (Cardinale Decano) will then ask the freshly elected pope to choose his pastoral name, and as soon as the pope is dressed with the white habit, the Senior Cardinal-Deacon (Cardinale Protodiacono) appears on the major balcony of St. Peter's façade to introduce the new pope2 with the famous Latin sentence Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus papam.(I announce to you a great joy: We have a Pope).

Seal of Vatican City State

The term "Holy See" refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. It is therefore quite distinct from the Vatican City state, which came into existence only in 1929, through the Lateran treaties between the Holy See and Italy. As the "central government" of the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See has a legal personality that allows it to enter into treaties as the juridical equal of a state and to send and receive diplomatic representatives. It has formal diplomatic relations with 179 nations.3 The State of Vatican City, for its part, is recognized under international law as a sovereign territory. Unlike the Holy See, it does not receive or send diplomatic representatives, and the Holy See acts on its behalf in international affairs.

Administration of Vatican City

As with almost all monarchies, the executive, legislative and judicial power of government reside in the crown, in this case in the office of the Bishop of Rome (the pope). However, as with many monarchies, the pope exercises this power through other organs which act on his behalf and in his name.

The pope commonly delegates the internal administration of Vatican City to various bodies and officials. However, according to the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, "The Supreme Pontiff, Sovereign of Vatican City State, has the fullness of legislative, executive, and judicial powers"4 for Vatican City.

The pope delegates legislative authority for the state to the unicameral Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. This commission was established in 1939 by Pope Pius XII. It consists of seven Cardinals appointed by the pope for five-year terms. Laws passed by the Commission must be approved by the pope through the Secretariat of State prior to being published and taking effect.

The President of the Pontifical Commission is also the President of the Governorate of Vatican City, to whom the pope delegates executive authority for the state. The president is assisted by a Secretary General and a Vice Secretary General. Each of these officers is appointed by the pope for a five-year term. Actions of the President must be approved by the Commission. Various departments and offices report to the Governorate, handling such issues as communications, internal security, fire protection, and the Vatican Museums. The Corpo della Gendarmeria is the state's security and police force, not the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which is an organ of the Holy See, not Vatican City.

Executive

Palace of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Sovereign Francis 13 March 2013
President of the Governorate Giuseppe Bertello 1 October 2011

The Pope is ex officio sovereign of the Vatican City State. He delegates executive authority to the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, who is ex officio President of the Governorate. The president is appointed by the Pope for a five-year term, but may be removed at any time by the pope. The president reports all important matters to the Secretariat of State, the Pope's chief everyday advisory body, which is consulted on all matters, even if they belong to the specific competence of the Commission for Vatican City State or, for instance, that of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Secretariat of State is not thereby considered to hold responsibility for such matters, and the Cardinal Secretary of State is not seen as heading the Vatican City State or the various departments of the Roman Curia, other than the Secretariat of State itself.

Vatican City is a member of CEPT, Eutelsat, International Grains Council, Intelsat, ITU and UPU.

Vatican City does not have direct diplomatic relations with other states. Its foreign relations are managed by the Holy See. See Holy See#Relationship with the Vatican City and other territories.

Legislature

A unicameral Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, appointed by the Pope, operates as legislative branch, proposing law and policy to the Pope.5 Prior to taking effect, laws and policies passed by the commission must be approved by the Supreme Pontiff, through the Secretariat of State,6 and be published in the Italian-language supplement of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis that deals with Vatican City State matters.

The "Councillors of the State" give their consultation in the drafting of legislation.7 They may be consulted either alone or collegially.8

Judiciary

The Vatican City has a distinct legal system from that of the Government of Italy. John Allen, a CNN Vatican analyst, says that the court system usually prosecutes minor crimes, such as pick pocketing, and usually the Vatican legal system gives out limited penalties. The Vatican may request that a serious crime be tried in the Italian judicial system.9

The pope's judicial authority is exercised through the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as he by law serves also as the President of the Cassation Court of Vatican City (i.e. the highest court of appeal)10 and the Dean of the Roman Rota as President of the Appellate Court of Vatican City.citation needed In fact, most crimes are prosecuted by and handled in the courts of by the Republic of Italy, by agreement between the Vatican and the Italian government.citation needed

Penal system

The Vatican has a special cell for short-term incarceration.9 The Vatican has no prison system,11 and so the Vatican has no facilities that could be used for long-term incarceration.9 People convicted of committing crimes in the Vatican serve terms in Italian prisons (Polizia Penitenziaria), with costs covered by the Vatican.11

See also

References

  1. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 1, #1
  2. ^ Ap. Const. Universi Dominici Gregis n. 89
  3. ^ ZENIT news agency, "179 states have full diplomatic relations with the Holy See"
  4. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 1, § 1
  5. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 3 §1
  6. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 4 §3
  7. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 13 §1
  8. ^ Fundamental Law of Vatican City State, Art. 13 §2
  9. ^ a b c Nadeau, Barbie. "Pope's butler arrested over Vatican documents leak." CNN. 26 May 2012. Retrieved on 26 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Legge che approva l'ordinamento giudiziario dello Stato della Città del Vaticano (Suppl. 12)". Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) 79. Holy See. 1987. 
  11. ^ a b "Is the Vatican a Rogue State?" Spiegel Online. 19 January 2007. Retrieved on 25 August 2010.







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