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Covering the Vatican




The official name of the independent state established by the Lateran Pact

with Italy in 1929 is Vatican City State. The name should be used only when

referring to the local civil administration or its agencies—a fairly rare occur-

rence. At 108.7 acres, it is the smallest sovereign nation in the world and is

distinct from the Holy See, which refers to the pope and his Curia.

The Holy See exercises sovereignty over Vatican City State, however. The

pope, as head of the Holy See, has full legislative, judicial and executive pow-

ers, but the secretary of state acts as the pope’s representative in all matters

relating to the civil state. A governor, under the supervision of the Pontifical

Commission for Vatican City State, administers Vatican City State. The agen-

cies that handle Vatican stamps and coins, the post office, and the Vatican

monuments and museums are all part of the civil government offices. You can

find more information at .

In discussion of the central offices of the Catholic Church in their global

role of authority and service,

the Vatican

has come to be interchangeable with

the Holy See

in popular speech and in news reporting. In most news contexts


has become the term of choice. Be careful, however, about using



as a blanket term when instead an individual should be cited. For

example, if the head of the Congregation for the Clergy speaks at a news con-

ference, attribute the comments to him in his role as a Vatican official, not to

the Vatican in general.




is a major Vatican department or administrative office. The dicast-

eries as a whole are called the

Roman Curia

. The most common dicasteries

you may encounter as a reporter are listed below, along with the leaders of

each dicastery as of spring 2008. The Secretariat of State and Vatican congre-

gations are usually headed by a cardinal, with bishops, priests, religious, and

laypeople working below him; pontifical councils may be headed by a cardi-

nal or an archbishop. The head of a congregation is called the



the head

of a pontifical council is called the



The Vatican maintains sections on its Web site for each dicastery. They con-

tain general information and certain documents, but not everything has been

translated into English, and contact information is in most cases conspicuously

absent. The home page of the VaticanWeb site is . Af

ter choosing