Vatican City

Last modified: 2 January 2014

The country

The state is known as Città del Vaticano in its national language. This means Vatican City.

Vatican City is a small city-state that exists since 1929. It is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal- monarchical state. With 44 hectares and a population less than 1000 people it is the smallest country in the world by area and population. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic church, known as the Holy See, and is situated in the heart of Rome, Italy. The head of state is the Pope, who lives at the Papal Apartments in the Papal Palace. The popes have resided in the area since they returned from Avignon, France, in 1377. The Pope has total legislative, executive and judicial power over Vatican City.


The current sovereign, and the 266th Pope, is Francis. He was born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 17 December 1936.

He is the son of Mario José Bergoglio and his wife Regina María Sivori.


On 13 March 2013 Francis was elected the new Pope. He succeeded the 265th Pope, Benedict XVI (1927- ), who had become Pope on 19 April 2005 and abdicated on 28 February 2013.

The inauguration took place at Vatican City on 19 March 2013.

Postal address

Papal Palace
00120 Vatican City State


The papacy is a non-hereditary elective monarchy. The popes are chosen by the College of Cardinals. The pope is elected for a life term in conclave by cardinals younger than 80.

The popes

Pius XI (1857-1939)1922 (1929)-1939
Pius XII (1876-1958)1939-1958
John XXIII (1881-1963)1958-1963
Paul VI (1897-1978)1963-1978
John Paul I (1897-1978)1978
John Paul II (1920-2005)1978-2005
Benedict XVI (1927-)2005-abd. 2013
Francis (1936-)2013-