Foreign relations of the Holy See

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The Holy See has long been recognised as a subject of international law and as an active participant in international relations. One observer has stated that its interaction with the world has, in the period since World War II, been at its highest level ever.[1] It is distinct from the city-state of the Vatican City, over which the Holy See has "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction".[2]

The diplomatic activities of the Holy See are directed by the Secretariat of State (headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State), through the Section for Relations with States.

The Holy See recognizes all UN member states, except for the People's Republic of China (as the Holy See only recognizes the Republic of China) and North Korea (as the Holy See only has relations with South Korea). The Holy See also recognizes the State of Palestine,[3][4] the only other non-UN member it recognizes besides Taiwan (ROC).

The term "Vatican Diplomatic Corps", by contrast with the diplomatic service of the Holy See, properly refers to all those diplomats accredited to the Holy See, not those who represent its interests to other nations and international bodies. Since 1961, Vatican diplomats also enjoy diplomatic immunity.[5]


Since medieval times the episcopal see of Rome has been recognized as a sovereign entity. Earlier, there were papal representatives (apocrisiarii) to the Emperors of Constantinople, beginning in 453, but they were not thought of as ambassadors.[6]: 64  In the eleventh century the sending of papal representatives to princes, on a temporary or permanent mission, became frequent.[6]: 65  In the fifteenth century it became customary for states to accredit permanent resident ambassadors to the Pope in Rome.[6]: 68  The first permanent papal nunciature was established in 1500 in Venice. Their number grew in the course of the sixteenth century to thirteen, while internuncios (representatives of second rank) were sent to less-powerful states.[6]: 70  After enjoying a brilliant period in the first half of the seventeenth century, papal diplomacy declined after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, being assailed especially by royalists and Gallicans, and the number of functioning nuncios was reduced to two in the time of Napoleon, although in the same period, in 1805, Prussia became the first Protestant state to send an ambassador to Rome. There was a revival after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which, while laying down that, in general, the order of precedence between ambassadors would be determined by the date of their arrival, allowed special precedence to be given to the nuncio, by which he would always be the dean of the diplomatic corps.[7]

In spite of the extinction of the Papal States in 1870, and the consequent loss of territorial sovereignty, and 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.[8] Countries continued to receive nuncios as diplomatic representatives of full rank, and 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.[8]

With the First World War and its aftermath the number of states with diplomatic relations with the Holy See increased. For the first time since relations were broken between the Pope and Queen Elizabeth I of England, a British diplomatic mission to the Holy See was opened in 1914.[9] The result was that, instead of diminishing, the number of diplomats accredited to the Holy See grew from sixteen in 1870 to twenty-seven in 1929, even before it again acquired territorial sovereignty with the founding of the State of Vatican City.[10]

In the same period, the Holy See concluded a total of twenty-nine concordats and other agreements with states, including Austro-Hungary in 1881, Russia in 1882 and 1907, France in 1886 and 1923.[10] Two of these concordats were registered at the League of Nations at the request of the countries involved.[11]

While bereft of territorial sovereignty, the Holy See also accepted requests to act as arbitrator between countries, including a dispute between Germany and Spain over the Caroline Islands.[10]

The Lateran Treaty of 1929 and the founding of the Vatican City State was not followed by any great immediate increase in the number of states with which the Holy See had official relations. This came later, especially after the Second World War.

The Vienna Convention of April 18, 1961 also established diplomatic immunity for the Vatican's foreign diplomats.[5] Such immunity can only be revoked by the Holy See.[5]

Diplomatic relations[edit]

Diplomatic relations of the Holy See.svg
# Country[12] Date
1  Spain 1500s
2  France 1600s
3  Portugal 1600s
4  Switzerland 1600s
5  Brazil 1829
6  Netherlands 1829
7  Belgium 1835
8  Colombia 26 November 1835
9  Monaco 21 June 1875[13]
10  Argentina 1877
11  Bolivia 1877
12  Chile 1877
13  Ecuador 1877
14  Paraguay 1877
15  Peru 1877
16  Uruguay 1877
17  Dominican Republic 1881
18  Haiti 1881
19  Venezuela 1881
20  Luxembourg 1891
21  Costa Rica 1908
22  Honduras 1908
23  Nicaragua 1908
24  Germany 1920
25  El Salvador 1922
26  Panama 21 September 1923[14]
27  San Marino April 1926
28  Liberia 15 December 1927
29  Italy 24 June 1929
30  Ireland 27 November 1929
 Sovereign Military Order of Malta February 1930
31  Cuba 2 September 1935
32  Guatemala 16 March 1936
34  Japan March 1942
33  Finland 31 July 1942[15]
 Republic of China 23 October 1942
35  Austria 9 August 1946
36  Lebanon November 1946
37  Egypt 23 August 1947
38  India 12 June 1948
39  Indonesia 13 March 1950
40  Philippines 8 April 1951
41  Pakistan 6 October 1951
42  Syria 21 February 1953
43  Iran 2 May 1953
44  Ethiopia 20 March 1957
45  Turkey 25 January 1960
46  Senegal 17 November 1961
47  Burundi 11 February 1963
48  Republic of the Congo 16 February 1963
49  South Korea 11 December 1963
50  Rwanda 6 June 1964
51  Zambia 15 May 1965
52  Kenya 19 June 1965
53  Malta 15 December 1965
54  Malawi 5 February 1966
55  Iraq 26 August 1966
56  Cameroon 27 August 1966
57  Uganda 1 September 1966
58  Madagascar 24 December 1966
59  Lesotho 11 March 1967
60  Central African Republic 13 May 1967
61  Gabon 31 October 1967
62  Thailand 19 April 1968
63  Tanzania 28 April 1968
64  Kuwait 21 October 1968
65  Canada 16 October 1969
66  Mauritius 9 March 1970
67  Serbia 14 August 1970
68  Ivory Coast 26 October 1970
69  Benin 29 June 1971
70  Niger 20 July 1971
71  Algeria 6 March 1972
72  Tunisia 22 March 1972
73  Sudan 29 April 1972
74  Bangladesh 25 September 1972
75  Cyprus 31 January 1973
76  Australia 24 March 1973
77  Burkina Faso 14 June 1973
78  New Zealand 20 June 1973
79  Sri Lanka 6 September 1975
80  Ghana 20 November 1975
81  Nigeria 20 November 1975
82  Morocco 15 January 1976
83  Cape Verde 12 May 1976
84  Iceland 12 October 1976[16]
85  Democratic Republic of the Congo 31 January 1977
86  Papua New Guinea 7 March 1977
87  Gambia 7 June 1978
88  Trinidad and Tobago 23 July 1978
89  Fiji 12 September 1978
90  Grenada 17 February 1979
91  Barbados 19 April 1979
92  Greece 17 July 1979
93  Jamaica 20 July 1979
94  Bahamas 27 July 1979
95  Mali 29 October 1979
96  Zimbabwe 26 June 1980
97  Togo 21 April 1981
98  Singapore 24 June 1981
99  Dominica 1 September 1981
100  Equatorial Guinea 24 December 1981
101  United Kingdom 16 January 1982
102  Denmark 2 August 1982
103  Norway 2 August 1982
104  Sweden 2 August 1982
105  Belize 9 March 1983
106    Nepal 10 September 1983
107  United States 10 January 1984
108  Solomon Islands 9 May 1984
109  Seychelles 27 July 1984
110  Saint Lucia 1 September 1984
111  Sao Tome and Principe 21 December 1984
112  Liechtenstein 28 August 1985
113  Guinea 21 June 1986
114  Guinea-Bissau 12 July 1986
115  Antigua and Barbuda 15 December 1986
116  Chad 28 November 1988
117  Poland 17 July 1989
118  Hungary 9 February 1990
119  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 16 April 1990
120  Czech Republic 19 April 1990
121  Romania 15 May 1990
122  Bulgaria 6 December 1990
123  Albania 7 September 1991
124  Lithuania 30 September 1991
125  Latvia 1 October 1991
126  Estonia 3 October 1991
127  Croatia 8 February 1992
128  Slovenia 8 February 1992
129  Ukraine 8 February 1992
130  Eswatini 11 March 1992
131  Mongolia 4 April 1992
132  Armenia 23 May 1992
133  Azerbaijan 23 May 1992
134  Georgia 23 May 1992
135  Moldova 23 May 1992
136  Nauru 1 June 1992
137  Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 August 1992
138  Kyrgyzstan 27 August 1992
139  Mexico 21 September 1992
140  Kazakhstan 17 October 1992
141  Uzbekistan 17 October 1992
142  Belarus 11 November 1992
143  Slovakia 1 January 1993
144  Marshall Islands 30 December 1993
145  Suriname 16 January 1994
146  Federated States of Micronesia 26 January 1994
147  Jordan 3 March 1994
148  South Africa 5 March 1994
149  Cambodia 25 March 1994
150  Samoa 10 June 1994
151  Israel 15 June 1994
152  Vanuatu 20 July 1994
153  Tonga 24 August 1994
154  North Macedonia 21 December 1994
155  Kiribati 10 April 1995
156  Andorra 16 June 1995
157  Eritrea 15 July 1995
158  Namibia 12 September 1995
159  Mozambique 14 December 1995
160  Turkmenistan 10 June 1996
161  Tajikistan 15 June 1996
162  Sierra Leone 30 July 1996
163  Libya 10 March 1997
164  Guyana 9 June 1997
165  Angola 8 July 1997
166  Yemen 13 October 1998
167  Palau 17 December 1998
 Cook Islands 29 April 1999
168  Saint Kitts and Nevis 19 July 1999
169  Bahrain 12 January 2000
170  Djibouti 20 May 2000
171  East Timor 20 May 2002
172  Qatar 18 November 2002
173  Montenegro 16 December 2006
174  United Arab Emirates 31 May 2007
175  Botswana 4 November 2008
176  Russia 9 December 2009
177  Malaysia 27 July 2011
178  South Sudan 22 February 2013
 State of Palestine 13 May 2015[17]
179  Mauritania 9 December 2016[18]
180  Myanmar 4 May 2017
181  Oman 23 February 2023[19]

Bilateral relations[edit]

The Holy See, as a non-state sovereign entity and full subject of international law, started establishing diplomatic relations with sovereign states in the 15th century.[20] It had the territory of the States of the Church under its direct sovereign rule since centuries before that time. Currently it has the territory of the State of the Vatican City under its direct sovereign rule. In the period of 1870–1929 between the annexation of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy and the ratification of the Lateran Treaty establishing the current Vatican City State, the Holy See was devoid of territory. In this period some states suspended their diplomatic relations, but others retained them (or established such relations for the first time or reestablished them after a break), so that the number of states that did have diplomatic relations with the Holy See almost doubled (from 16 to 27) in the period between 1870 and 1929.[10]

The Holy See currently has diplomatic relations with 183 sovereign states[21] (including the partially internationally recognized Republic of China) and, in addition, with the sovereign entity Order of Malta and the supranational union European Union.[22] The Holy See also has established official diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine.[20]

By agreement with the government of Vietnam, it has a non-resident papal representative to that country.[23] It has official formal contacts, without establishing diplomatic relations, with: Afghanistan, Brunei, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.[24]

The Holy See additionally maintains some apostolic delegates to local Catholic Church communities which are not accredited to the governments of the respective states and work only in an unofficial, non-diplomatic capacity.[25] The regions and states where such non-diplomatic delegates operate are: Brunei, Comoros, Laos, Somalia, Vietnam, Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories (Palestine), Pacific Ocean (Tuvalu, dependent territories[26]), Arabian Peninsula (foreigners in Saudi Arabia), Antilles (dependent territories[27]), apostolic delegate to Kosovo[28] (Republic of Kosovo) and the apostolic prefecture of Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).

The Holy See has no relations of any kind with the following states:

89 embassies to the Holy See are based in Rome.[21]

The Holy See is the only European subject of international law to have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), although there have been reports of informal talks between the Holy See and the government of the People's Republic of China on establishing diplomatic relations, restoring the situation that existed when the papal representative, Antonio Riberi, was part of the diplomatic corps that accepted the Communist government military victory instead of withdrawing with the Nationalist authorities to Taiwan. He was later expelled, after which the Holy See sent its representative to Taipei instead.

During the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI relations were established with Montenegro (2006), the United Arab Emirates (2007), Botswana (2008), Russia (2009), Malaysia (2011), and South Sudan (2013),[29] and during the pontificate of Pope Francis, diplomatic relations were established with the State of Palestine (2015),[30] Mauritania (2016),[31] Myanmar (2017),[32] and Oman (2023).[19] "Relations of a special nature" had previously been in place with Russia.[33]


Country Formal relations begun or resumed Notes
 Algeria 1972 See Algeria–Holy See relations.
  • During the Algerian War of 1954–1962 the Holy See did not take sides[34] nor, in view of its pledge not to take part in temporal rivalries unless there was a mutual appeal to it,[35] was there Vatican mediation between the French government and the Algerian rebels who requested it.[36]
  • After Algeria became independent, Algeria maintained diplomatic ties with the Holy See and allowed Roman Catholic priests to continue ministering to the remaining Catholics in Algeria.[37]
 Central African Republic 1967 See Central African Republic–Holy See relations.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Bangui.
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1977 See Democratic Republic of the Congo–Holy See relations.
  • The Holy See has an apostolic nunciature in Kinshasa.
  • The DRC maintains an embassy near Vatican City.
 Egypt 1947 See Apostolic Nunciature to Egypt.

Pope Francis met Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyeb in several occasions to improve relations among different faiths.[38]

 Ivory Coast 1970 See Holy See-Ivory Coast relations.
  • The Holy See has an apostolic nunciature in Abidjan.
  • Ivory Coast maintains an embassy in Rome for the Holy See.
 Kenya 1959
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Nairobi.
  • Kenya is represented in the Holy See through its embassy in Paris, France.[39]
  • Pope John Paul II visited Kenya thrice during his tenure, in 1980, 1985 and 1995. Pope Francis visited Kenya in November 2015.[40]
 Madagascar 1960
 Republic of the Congo 1963 See Republic of the Congo–Holy See relations.
  • The Holy See maintains an apostolic nunciature in Brazzaville.
 Rwanda 1964
  • The Holy See has an nunciature in Kigali.[42]
  • Rwanda has an embassy to the Holy See.
  • Relations between the two States have been strained since the Rwanda genocide. Many bishops were under the ideological influence of the previous Hutu nationalist government, and the government of Paul Kagame has tried to purge the episcopacy of hostile elements.
  • Priests that participated in the killings behaved in a way no different from the majority of the population, a phenomenon which has led to a grave collective and spiritual guilt, and has led to the growth of Evangelical churches and Islamic organizations. In part, this has been attributed to an ethnic-based liberation theology, which was denounced by the Holy See in the 1970s and 1980s.
 Sudan 1969
 Mozambique 1977


Country Formal relations begun or resumed Notes
 Argentina 1940 See Argentina–Holy See relations.
 Belize 1983

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 9 March 1983.[46]

 Bolivia 1877 Bolivian President Evo Morales met with Pope Francis in 2015,[47] and 2016.[48]
 Brazil 1829 See Brazil–Holy See relations
  • Brazil has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
  • Holy See has a nunciature in Brasília.
 Canada 1969 See Canada–Holy See relations.

Although the Roman Catholic Church has been territorially established in what later became the independent state of Canada since the founding of New France in the early 17th century, Holy See–Canada relations were only officially established under the papacy of Paul VI in 1969.

 Chile 1877
  • Chile has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
  • Holy See has a nunciature in Santiago.
 Colombia 1835
  • Colombia has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
  • Holy See has a nunciature in Bogota.
 Cuba 1935 See Cuba–Holy See relations
  • Cuba has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Havana.
 Dominican Republic 1881 See Apostolic Nunciature to the Dominican Republic.
 Ecuador 1877 See Apostolic Nunciature to Ecuador.
 Haiti 1881 See Apostolic Nunciature to Haiti.
 Mexico 1992 See Holy See–Mexico relations.
  • After Holy See-Mexico diplomatic relations were broken off in 1861,[49] the Holy See assigned an Apostolic Delegate as resident representative in Mexico in 1904.[50] In 1992, after more than 130 years, the Mexican Government reestablished diplomatic relations with the Holy See and restored civil rights to the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.[50][51]
  • Holy See has an Apostolic Nunciature in Mexico City.[52]
  • Mexico has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.[53]
 Nicaragua 1862 See Holy See–Nicaragua relations.
 Paraguay 1877 See Apostolic Nunciature to Paraguay.
 Peru 1877 See Holy See–Peru relations
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Lima.
  • Peru has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
 United States 1984 See Holy See–United States relations.
 Uruguay 1877 See Holy See–Uruguay relations
  • The Holy See has a nunciatue in Montevideo.
  • Uruguay has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
 Venezuela 1869 See Holy See–Venezuela relations.

Diplomatic relations were established in 1869. The Holy See has a nunciature in Caracas. Venezuela has an embassy in Rome.


Country Formal relations begun or resumed Notes
 Armenia 1992
 Azerbaijan 1992
  • Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established on May 23, 1992.[54]
  • Azerbaijan is accredited to the Holy See through its embassy in Paris, France.[54]
  • The Holy See is accredited to Azerbaijan through its nunciature in Ankara, Turkey.[54]
 Bangladesh 1972 See Bangladesh–Holy See relations.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in the Baridhara Diplomatic Enclave in Dhaka.[55]
  • Bangladesh also has an ambassador accredited to the Holy See.
 China, Republic of 1942 See Holy See–Taiwan relations.
  • Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China began in 1942, at that time the representative of China was the Republic of China (ROC). When the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War and established the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the Holy See chose not to move its diplomatic representative to Taipei, where the government of the Republic of China had retreated to. However, the Communist government expelled it, and the Holy See's diplomatic mission was then transferred to Taipei in 1951.
  • In 1971, when the seat of China at the United Nations was adjudicated to the government of the PRC, the Holy See chose to continue to recognize the ROC as the sole representative of China.
  • Since 1971, the Holy See maintains a downgraded Apostolic Nunciature in Taipei, but without a Nuncio. The mission is headed only by a chargé d'affaires who carries on the business of the diplomatic mission.
  • The ROC, now commonly known as Taiwan, has an embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
  • The Holy See is currently the only sovereign entity in Europe that recognizes the ROC as the sole representative of China.[56] For its contacts with the PRC, see China–Holy See relations.
 India 1948 See Holy See–India relations.
 Indonesia 1947
 Iran 1954 See Holy See–Iran relations.

The two countries have had formal diplomatic relations since 1954, since the pontificate of Pius XII, and have been maintained during Islamic revolution.[58] In 2008 relations between Iran and the Holy See were "warming", and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "said the Vatican was a positive force for justice and peace" when he met with the Papal nuncio to Iran, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel.[59]

 Israel 1993 See Holy See–Israel relations.

Holy See–Israel relations have officially existed since 1993 with the adoption of the fundamental agreement between the two parties. However, relations remain tense because of the non-fulfillment of the accords giving property rights and tax exemptions to the Church.

 Jordan 1994 See Holy See–Jordan relations.
  • The etymology of Jordan comes from the Jordan River, which is significant to Christians because it was the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Various Christian clerics in the Arab world have a Jordanian background, such as Maroun Lahham in Tunisia and Fouad Twal in Israel/Palestine.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Amman.
  • Jordan has an embassy in Rome.
 Kurdistan See Holy See–Kurdistan Region relations.
 Kuwait 1969
  • The first Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Vatican was accredited in March 1973. As he presented his credentials to Pope Paul VI, the Pontiff treated the establishing of relations as a sign of growing tolerance within Kuwait.[60]
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Kuwait City.[61]
  • Kuwait has an embassy in Rome.
 Lebanon 1947 See Holy See–Lebanon relations.
 Malaysia 2011 See Holy See–Malaysia relations.
  • Diplomatic relations were established in 2011[62]
  • Malaysia is represented at the Holy See through its embassy in Bern (Switzerland).[63]
 Myanmar 2017 See Holy See–Myanmar relations.
  • Diplomatic relations were established on 4 May 2017, following a meeting between Pope Francis and Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.[64]
  • The Holy See is set to establish a nunciature in Myanmar.[64]
  • Myanmar is set to establish an embassy in the Vatican.[64]
   Nepal 1983 See Holy See–Nepal relations.
 Pakistan 1961 See Holy See–Pakistan relations.
 Palestine 1994 See Holy See–Palestine relations.

The Holy See and the State of Palestine established formal diplomatic relations in 2015, through the mutual signing of the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine.[30] An Apostolic Delegation (a non-diplomatic mission of the Holy See) denominated "Jerusalem and Palestine" had existed since 11 February 1948, and the Palestine Liberation Organization had established official (non diplomatic) relations with the Holy See in October 1994, with the opening of an office in Rome. The Holy See, along with many other states, supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

 Philippines 1951 See Holy See–Philippines relations.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Manila.[66]
  • The Philippines has an embassy in Vatican City.[67]
  • The nuncio is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in the Philippines.
 Qatar 2002[68]
 Saudi Arabia See Holy See–Saudi Arabia relations.

No official diplomatic relationship exists. There have been some important high-level meetings between Saudi and Vatican officials in order to discuss issues and organize dialogue between religions.

 South Korea 1966[69] See Holy See–South Korea relations.
 Sri Lanka 1978 see Holy See–Sri Lanka relations.

The Holy See has a nunciature in Colombo. Sri Lanka has an ambassador accredited to the Holy See.

 Syria 1946
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Damascus.[75]
  • Syria has an embassy in Rome.
  • At present, the Holy See has comparatively good relations with Syria. It has sought to foster ecumenism between rival Christian factions in Antioch and to ensure the survival of age-old Christian communities in the country. The declaration Nostra aetate has made possible inter-faith dialogue and cooperation with Syrian Muslims.
  • Some Vatican leaders have also sought to foster greater political independence for Lebanon, which has been tied to Syria since the end of the Lebanese civil war. This call for Lebanese independence has traditionally been resisted by Syrian leaders.
  • John Paul II visited Syria in 2001 and was the first pope to have been to an Islamic mosque, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus,[76] which includes the relics of John the Baptist.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended Pope John Paul II's funeral.[77]
 Thailand 1957


  • 1957: Established as Apostolic Delegation of Thailand and Malay Peninsula
  • 1964: Renamed as Apostolic Delegation of Thailand, Laos and Malay Peninsula
  • 1968.02.23: Renamed as Apostolic Delegation of Thailand (branched to create Apostolic Delegation of Laos, Malaysia and Singapore)
  • 1969.08.28: Promoted as Apostolic Nunciature of Thailand
  • 1983: Branched to create Apostolic Delegation of Malaysia and Brunei
  • 1990: Branched to create Apostolic Delegation of Myanmar
  • 1994.07.16: Branched to create Apostolic Nunciature of Cambodia[80]
  • 2010.07.08: Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Vatican's Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand, paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on the occasion of the completion of his mission in Thailand.[81]
 Turkey 1868 See Holy See–Turkey relations.
 United Arab Emirates 2007[83] See Holy See–United Arab Emirates relations.
  • Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates in February 2019 and became the first pontiff to ever visit and hold papal mass in the Arabian Peninsula.[84]
  • The Holy See has is accredited to the United Arab Emirates through its nunciature in Kuwait City.
  • United Arab Emirates is accredited to the Holy See through its embassy in Madrid.
 Vietnam See Holy See–Vietnam relations.

Diplomatic relations have not been established with Vietnam. An Apostolic Delegation (a papal mission accredited to the Catholic Church in the country but not officially to the Government) still exists on paper and as such is listed in the Annuario Pontificio; but since the end of the Vietnam War admittance of representatives to staff it has not been permitted. Temporary missions to discuss with the Government matters of common interest are sent every year or two.

 Yemen 1998 See Foreign relations of Yemen.

The Holy See and Yemen established diplomatic relations on 13 October 1998.[85] Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh met Pope John Paul II in November 2004.[86]


Country Formal relations begun or resumed Notes
 Albania 1991
  • Albania has a resident embassy to the Holy See in Rome[87]
  • The Holy See has a resident nunciature (embassy) in Tirana[87]
  • Relations were established in 1991, after the fall of communism in Albania[citation needed]
  • Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit Albania, which took place immediately after the fall of communism[88]
  • Pope Francis visited Albania on 24 September 2014, which was the first nation in Europe he has visited[citation needed]
  • Albania is home to 520,000 Roman Catholics, and is the second largest religion in the country, after Islam[89]
 Belgium 1835 See Apostolic Nunciature to Belgium.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992 See Bosnia and Herzegovina–Holy See relations.
 Croatia 1992 See Croatia–Holy See relations.
  • Croatia has a resident embassy to the Holy See in Rome.
  • Holy See has a nunciature with a nuncio of ambassadorial rank with additional privileges in Zagreb.
  • According to the 2011 census 86.28% of Croats are Roman Catholic.
 Cyprus See Apostolic Nunciature to Cyprus.
 Denmark 1982
 European Union 1970 See Holy See–European Union relations.

Many of the founders of the European Union were inspired by Catholic ideals, notably Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer, and Jean Monnet.[91][92]

 Finland 1942[93][94]

Finland has a resident embassy to the Holy See in Rome,[95] located at the Finnish Institute in Rome in Villa Lante al Gianicolo.

 France No later than 987,
based upon already-established relations no later than 714
See France–Holy See relations.

Relations between France and the Catholic Church are very ancient and have existed since the fifth century AD, and have been durable to the extent that France is sometimes called the eldest daughter of the Church. Areas of cooperation between Paris and the Holy See have traditionally included education, health care, the struggle against poverty and international diplomacy. Before the establishment of the welfare state, Church involvement was evident in many sectors of French society. Today, Paris's international peace initiatives are often in line with those of the Holy See, who favors dialogue on a global level.

 Germany 1951 See Germany–Holy See relations.
 Greece 1980 See Greece–Holy See relations.
  • The Holy See established its Apostolic Nunciature to Greece in Athens in 1980. The Greek ambassador to the Holy See at first resided in Paris, where he was concurrently accredited to France; in 1988 a separate Greek embassy to the Holy See, situated in Rome, was established.
  • In May 2001, Pope John Paul II made a visit of pilgrimage to Greece.[96]
 Iceland 1977

Diplomatic relations were established in 1977, but the Pope Paul VI in his greeting to the first Ambassador from Iceland referred to these relations as "the millenary ties between your people (i.e. of Iceland) and the Catholic Church".[97]

 Ireland 1929 See Holy See–Ireland relations.

The majority of Irish people are Roman Catholic. The Holy See has a nunciature in Dublin. Ireland had, in Rome, an embassy to the Holy See. The government closed that embassy in 2011 for financial reasons; however, it re-opened the embassy in 2014.[98] Currently Ireland's representative to the Holy See is a 'non-resident ambassador',[98] who is an ordinary resident of Dublin.

 Italy 1929 See Holy See–Italy relations.

Because of the small size of the Vatican City State, embassies accredited to the Holy See are based on Italian territory. Treaties signed between Italy and the Vatican City State permit such embassages. Like the Embassy of Italy, the Embassy of Andorra to the Holy See is also based on its home territory.

 Lithuania 1991
 Luxembourg 1891 See Apostolic Nunciature to Luxembourg.
 Malta 1127
1530; 1798; 1800; 1813
 Monaco 1875 See Apostolic Nunciature to Monaco.
 Netherlands 1829 See Apostolic Nunciature to the Netherlands.
 Norway 1982 See Holy See–Norway relations.
 Poland 1555 See Holy See–Poland relations.
 Portugal 1179

Portugal has one of the oldest relations with the Holy See; it received formal recognition as independent from Castile in 1179 and has always kept a strong relation with the Holy See following the maritime expansion and the Christianization of overseas territories. Relations suspended from 1640 to 1670, following the war against Spain (the Holy See did not recognise the Portuguese independence before the end of the war in 1668) and from 1911 to 1918 (following the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in October 1910 and the approvation of the Law of Separation of the Church and the State). Concordats signed in 1940 and 2004.

  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Lisbon.
  • Portugal has an embassy in Rome.
 Romania 1920;1990 See Holy See–Romania relations.
  • The Holy See has an embassy in Bucharest.
  • Romania has an embassy to the Holy See.
 Russia 2009 See Holy See–Russia relations.
  • Russia has an embassy in Rome accredited to the Holy See.
  • Holy See–Russia relations are largely linked to ecumenical relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
 Serbia 2003 See Holy See–Serbia relations.
  • The Holy See has an embassy in Belgrade.[103]
  • Serbia has an embassy to the Holy See in Rome.[104]
  • The Holy See's decision to withhold recognition of Kosovo has led to a warming of relations with Serbia, undoing the tension with Yugoslavia that followed the Holy See's relatively speedy recognition of Croatia's independence.[105]
 Spain 1530 See Holy See–Spain relations.
  • The Holy See has a nunciature in Madrid.
  • Spain has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
 Switzerland 1586 See Holy See–Switzerland relations.
  • Holy See has a nunciature in Bern.
  • Switzerland has an embassy in Rome to the Holy See.
 Ukraine 1992 See Holy See–Ukraine relations.
 United Kingdom 1982 See Holy See–United Kingdom relations.

With the English Reformation, diplomatic links between London and the Holy See, which had been established in 1479, were interrupted in 1536 and again, after a brief restoration in 1553, in 1558. Formal diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and the Holy See were restored in 1914 and raised to ambassadorial level in 1982.[110][111]


Country Formal relations begun or resumed Notes
 Australia 1973
  • Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1973, Australia has maintained a non-resident Head of Mission, based in another European capital, as well as an office at the Holy See, headed by a Counsellor.
  • The Holy See has maintained an Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra since 1973.
  • On 21 July 2008, the Australian Government announced that it would appoint Tim Fischer as the first resident Ambassador to the Holy See. According to the Australian Foreign Ministry, this marked a significant deepening of Australia's relations with the Vatican since it would allow Australia to expand dialogue with the Vatican in areas including human rights, political and religious freedom, inter-faith dialogue, food security, arms control, refugees and anti-people trafficking, and climate change.[112] Fischer commenced his appointment on 30 January 2009, and presented credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 12 February 2009.
  • The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, visited Pope Benedict XVI and met the Vatican's Secretary of State on 9 July 2009.
  • The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith met Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States, on 3 December 2008, during his visit to Oslo to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Holy See played a facilitating role in relation to the Oslo process as a member of the Core Group of States.
 New Zealand 1948
 Papua New Guinea 1973 See Holy See-Papua New Guinea relations.
  • In 1973, an Apostolic Delegation of Papua New Guinea (from Apostolic Delegation of Australia and Papua New Guinea) was created.
  • In 1976, a delegation was created as the Apostolic Delegation of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
  • In 1977, the Vatican established the Apostolic Nunciature of Papua New Guinea and Apostolic Delegation of Solomon Islands. The Holy See established its Apostolic Nunciature in Port Moresby, the capital and largest city in Papua New Guinea.[117]

Multilateral politics[edit]

Participation in international organizations[edit]

The Holy See is active in international organizations and is a member of the following groups:[118]

The Holy See has the status of permanent observer state in:

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

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.

Activities of the Holy See within the United Nations system[edit]

Since 6 April 1964, the Holy See has been a permanent observer state at the United Nations. In that capacity, the Holy See has since had a standing invitation to attend all the sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Economic and Social Council to observe their work, and to maintain a permanent observer mission at the UN headquarters in New York.[121] Accordingly, the Holy See has established a Permanent Observer Mission in New York, has sent representatives to all open meetings of the General Assembly and of its Main Committees, and has been able to influence their decisions and recommendations.

Relationship with Vatican City[edit]

Although the Holy See is closely associated with Vatican City, the independent territory over which the Holy See is sovereign, the two entities are separate and distinct.

The State of the Vatican City was created by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 to "ensure 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."[122]

The Holy See, not Vatican City, maintains diplomatic relations with states, and foreign embassies are accredited to the Holy See, not to Vatican City State. It is the Holy See that establishes treaties and concordats with other sovereign entities and likewise, generally, it is the Holy See that participates in international organizations, with the exception of those dealing with technical matters of clearly territorial character,[118] such as:

Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See has extraterritorial authority over various sites in Rome and two Italian sites outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo. The same authority is extended under international law over the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in a foreign country.

Diplomatic representations to the Holy See[edit]

Of the diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See, 89 are situated in Rome, although those countries, if they also have an embassy to Italy, then have two embassies in the same city, since, by agreement between the Holy See and Italy, the same person cannot at the same time be accredited to both. The United Kingdom recently housed its embassy to the Holy See in the same building as its embassy to the Italian Republic, a move that led to a diplomatic protest from the Holy See. An ambassador accredited to a country other than Italy can be accredited also to the Holy See. For example, the embassy of India, located in Bern, to Switzerland and Liechtenstein is also accredited to the Holy See while the Holy See maintains an Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi. For reasons of economy, smaller countries accredit to the Holy See a mission situated elsewhere and accredited also to the country of residence and perhaps other countries.

Rejection of ambassadorial candidates[edit]

It has been reported on several occasions that the Holy See will reject ambassadorial candidates whose personal lives are not in accordance with Catholic teachings. In 1973, the Vatican rejected the nomination of Dudley McCarthy as Australia's non-resident ambassador due to his status as a divorcee.[124] According to press accounts in Argentina in January 2008, the country's nominee as ambassador, Alberto Iribarne, a Catholic, was rejected on the grounds that he was living with a woman other than the wife from whom he was divorced.[125] In September 2008, French and Italian press reports likewise claimed that the Holy See had refused the approval of several French ambassadorial candidates, including a divorcee and an openly gay man.[126]

Massimo Franco, author of Parallel Empires, asserted in April 2009 that the Obama administration had put forward three candidates for consideration for the position of United States Ambassador to the Holy See, but each of them had been deemed insufficiently anti-abortion by the Vatican. This claim was denied by the Holy See's spokesman Federico Lombardi, and was dismissed by former ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady as being in conflict with diplomatic practice. Vatican sources said that it is not the practice to vet the personal ideas of those who are proposed as ambassadors to the Holy See, though in the case of candidates who are Catholics and who are living with someone, their marital status is taken into account. Divorced people who are not Catholics can in fact be accepted, provided their marriage situation is in accord with the rules of their own religion.[127]

Treaties and concordats[edit]

Since the Holy See is legally capable of ratifying international treaties, and does ratify them, it has negotiated numerous bilateral treaties with states and it has been invited to participate – on equal footing with States – in the negotiation of most universal International law-making treaties. Traditionally, an agreement on religious matters between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state is called a concordat. This often includes both recognition and privileges for the Catholic Church in a particular country, such as exemptions from certain legal matters and processes, issues such as taxation, as well as the right of a state to influence the selection of bishops within its territory.


  • Breger, Marshall J. et al. eds. The Vatican and Permanent Neutrality (2022) excerpt
  • Cardinale, Hyginus Eugene (1976). The Holy See and the International Order. Colin Smythe, (Gerrards Cross). ISBN 0-900675-60-8.

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External links[edit]