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The Vatican — A Matter of Faith

Our key facts on the Vatican — and its varying role in the world.

December 31, 2002

Our key facts on the Vatican — and its varying role in the world.

The Vatican — or Holy See — is the smallest country on earth. Yet, with about one billion Catholics worldwide, the pope enjoys significant global influence. However, the Vatican has also been accused of being too conservative, almost to the point of appearing reactionary. Our Globalist Factsheet examines the state of the Vatican today.

How big is the Vatican?

Spanning 0.44 square kilometers, the Vatican is 0.7 times the size of The Mall, the strip between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol building in downtown Washington, DC.

(Central Intelligence Agency)

How many popes has the Vatican had?

Starting with St. Peter in about 42 A.D., the Catholic Church has had 265 popes. Since 1846, there have only been 10.

(The Washington Post)

How long are their tenures?

As of October 16, 2003, only four popes — Peter (32-67), Pius IX (1846-78), Leo XIII (1878-1903), John Paul II (since 1978) — have headed the Roman Catholic Church for 25 years or more.

(The Globalist)

Does a pope reign until he dies?

Catholic law permits a pope to step down — and five have done so. The most recent is Gregory XII who stepped down in 1415.

(The Washington Post)

Is the Pope elected through a democratic process?

Pope John Paul II has named all but 10 of the cardinals who will choose his successor.

(The Washington Post)

Does the Vatican have its own currency?

In late 2000, the Vatican announced that it would adopt the euro as its official currency.

(Associated Press)

How are relations with neighboring Italy?

Only in 1929 did Italy and the Vatican recognize each other as sovereign entities.


Have things improved since then?

On November 14, 2002, Pope John Paul II gave the first ever speech by a head of the Roman Catholic Church to the Italian parliament.


What policies has the Vatican supported?

In May 2002, during the United Nations General Assembly’s special session on children, the Bush Administration, the Vatican and some Muslim countries unsuccessfully pushed for a policy to prevent teenagers from getting abortions.

(The New York Times)

Is the Vatican the safest city in the world?

In 2002, the Vatican registered 397 civil offences and 608 penal offences — making the world’s smallest country the one with the highest crime rates. Criminal offences per capita were more than 20 times higher than in neighboring Italy.

(The Vatican)

What happens to offenders?

As of 2002, the Vatican has no prison, which means that anyone who receives a jail term is sent to Italy to serve their sentence — with the Vatican paying for all of Italy’s costs.


And finally, is the Vatican ready for the 21st century?

Back in 1992, the Vatican state’s third central telephone exchange was inaugurated. This qualified the state to be as one of the first to have a completely numeric telephone network. For further information call (39) 6-6988-3511.

(The Vatican)