Holy See

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Template:Politics of Vatican City The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes, "holy seat") is the episcopal see of Rome. The incumbent of the see is the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. The term Holy See, as used in Canon law, also refers to the Pope and the Roman Curia—in effect, the central government of the Catholic Church—and is the sense more widely used today.

Although every episcopal see is seen as holy and the Eastern Orthodox Church constantly applies the adjective "holy" or "sacred" (ἱερά) to all its sees, "the Holy See" (in the singular and with the definite article and no other specification) normally refers to the see of Rome, which is also called "the Apostolic See". While "Apostolic See" can refer to any see founded by any of the Apostles, the term is in this case used to refer to the see of the bishop seen as successor of the chief of the Apostles, Saint Peter.

Aside from Rome, the archiepiscopal See of Mainz, which was also of electoral and primatial rank, is the only other Western see that bears the title of "Holy See", although this usage is less common.


Organization of the Holy See

The Pope governs the Church through the Roman Curia. The Roman Curia consists of the Secretariat of State, nine Congregations, three Tribunals, 11 Pontifical Councils, and a complex of offices that administer church affairs at the highest level. The Secretariat of State, under the Cardinal Secretary of State, directs and coordinates the Curia. The current incumbent, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, is the Holy See's equivalent of a prime minister. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary of the Section for Relations With States of the Secretariat of State acts as the Holy See's foreign minister. Bertone and Mamberti have been named in their respective roles under by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2006.

Among the most active of the major Curial institutions are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees church doctrine; the Congregation for Bishops, which coordinates the appointment of bishops worldwide; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees all missionary activities; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which deals with international peace and social issues.

Three tribunals are responsible for judicial power. The Sacra Rota is responsible for normal appeals, including decrees of nullity for marriages, with the Apostolic Signatura being the administrative court of appeal and highest ecclesiastical court. The Apostolic Penitentiary is different from those two and, instead of dealing with contentious cases, issues absolutions, dispensations, and indulgences.

The Prefecture for Economic Affairs coordinates the finances of the Holy See departments and supervises the administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, an investment fund dating back to the Lateran Pacts. A committee of 15 cardinals, chaired by the Secretary of State, has final oversight authority over all financial matters of the Holy See, including those of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican bank.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household is responsible for the organization of the papal household, audiences, and ceremonies (apart from the strictly liturgical part).

Like any episcopal see, the Holy See does not dissolve upon the death or resignation of the reigning Pope. It instead operates under a different set of laws sede vacante. During this interregnum, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia (such as the prefects of congregations) cease to hold office immediately, the only exceptions being the Major Penitentiary, who continues his important role regarding absolutions and dispensations, and the Cardinal Camerlengo, who administers the temporalities (i.e., properties and finances) of the Holy See during this period. The government of the Holy See, and therefore of the Catholic Church, then falls to the College of Cardinals. Canon Law prohibits the College and the Camerlengo from introducing any innovations or novelties in the government of the Church during this period.

Diplomacy of the Holy See

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Foreign relations with the Holy See      diplomatic relations      other relations

Since medieval times the episcopal see of Rome has been recognized as a sovereign entity. The Holy See maintains formal diplomatic relations with 175 sovereign states <ref>Holy See Press Office</ref>, the European Union, and the Order of Malta; 69 of the diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See are situated in Rome, though those countries then have two embassies in the same city, since, by agreement between the Holy See and Italy, the same person cannot be accredited simultaneously to both. Dual accreditation with a country other than Italy is acceptable, whether the mission is situated in Rome or elsewhere. The Holy See also has relations of a special nature with Russia (Mission with an Ambassador) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (Office with a Director). The Holy See maintains 179 permanent diplomatic missions abroad (106 of which are accredited to sovereign states). The diplomatic activities of the Holy See are performed by the Secretariat of State (headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State), through the Section for Relations with States.

The Holy See has the oldest continuous diplomatic service in the world, tracing its origins to at least as far back as AD 325 with its original legation to the First Council of Nicea.

The Holy See is the only European subject of international law to have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan). It held official relations with China since 1942, and when victory in the Chinese Civil War went to the Communist Party of China, the Holy See's diplomatic representative chose not to withdraw to Taipei with the Kuomintang government. However, the Communist government expelled him, and the Holy See's diplomatic mission was then transferred to Taipei. When in 1971 the seat of China at the United Nations was adjudicated to the government of the People's Republic of China, the Holy See downgraded its mission in Taipei: since then, it has been headed only by a chargé d'affaires. Talks between the mainland government and the Holy See on diplomatic relations have been ongoing, with the main issue being the treatment of Catholics in mainland China. The government controls a Chinese Catholic Association which does not recognize the spiritual authority of Rome and it bans activities by those Catholics (sometimes referred to as the underground Church) who do recognize the Holy See's authority.

International organizations

The Holy See is especially active in international organizations and is a member of the following groups:

  • Note: In 1971, the Holy See announced the decision to adhere to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to "give its moral support to the principles that form the base of the treaty itself."

The Holy See is also a permanent observer of the following groups:

  • Note: the Holy See is a permanent observer in the United Nations and, in July 2004, gained all the rights of full membership except voting. According to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See Permanent Observer, "We have no vote because this is our choice." He added that the Holy See considers that its current status "is a fundamental step that does not close any path for the future. The Holy See has the requirements defined by the UN statute to be a member state and, if in the future it wished to be so, this resolution would not impede it from requesting it."

The Holy See is an observer on an informal basis of the following groups:

The Holy See sends a delegate to the Arab League in Cairo. It is also a guest of honour to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Relationship with the Vatican City and other territories

Although the Holy See is closely associated with the Vatican City, the independent territory over which the Holy See is sovereign, the two entities are separate and distinct. After the Italian takeover of the Papal States in 1870, the Holy See had no territorial sovereignty. In spite of some uncertainty among jurists as to whether it could continue to act as an independent personality in international matters, the Holy See continued in fact to exercise the right to send and receive diplomatic representatives, maintaining relations with states that included the major powers of Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary. Where, in accordance with the decision of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the Nuncio was not only a member of the Diplomatic Corps but its Dean, this arrangement continued to be accepted by the other ambassadors. In the course of the 59 years during which the Holy See held no territorial sovereignty, the number of states that had diplomatic relations with it, which had been reduced to 16, actually increased to 29.<ref>Lecture by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, 16 February 2006</ref>

The State of the Vatican City was created by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 to "insure the absolute and visible independence of the Holy See" and "to guarantee to it an indisputable sovereignty in international affairs" (quotations from the treaty). Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See's former Secretary for Relations with States, said that the Vatican City is a "minuscule support-state that guarantees the spiritual freedom of the Pope with the minimum territory".<ref>Lecture by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, 22 April 2002</ref>

The Holy See, not the Vatican City, maintains diplomatic relations with states (such as with the United Kingdom), and participates in international organizations.<ref>Bilateral and Multilateral Relations of the Holy See</ref> Foreign embassies are accredited to the Holy See, not to the Vatican City, and it is the Holy See that establishes treaties and concordats with other sovereign entities. When necessary, the Holy See will enter a treaty on behalf of the Vatican City.

Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See has extraterritorial authority over 23 sites in Rome and five Italian sites outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo.<ref name="CIA">CIA - The World Factbook -- Holy See (Vatican City). Central Intelligence Agency (2006-12-19). Retrieved on 2007-01-03. </ref> The same authority is extended under international law over the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in a foreign country.

See also


<references />

Further reading


  • La Due, William J. The Chair of Saint Peter: A History of the Papacy. (ISBN 1-57075-249-4)

External links

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Original Source

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