The Holy See

Capital Vatican City

Time Zone CET (GMT+1)

Country Code 39

ccTLD .va

Currency Euro

Land Area 0.44 sq km

Population 836

Language Latin, Italian

Major Religion Roman Catholicism

Key Data

Notable Public Figures

Francis I - Jorge Mario Bergoglio,

Pietro Parolin,
Cardinal Secretary of State

Giovanni Angelo Becciu,
Substitute for General Affairs

Paul Richard Gallagher,
Secretary for the Relations with States

Antoine Camiller,
Undersecretary for the Relations with States

Luciano Suriani,
Delegate for Pontificial Representations

Peter Brian Wells,
Assessor for General Affairs

José Avelino Bettencourt,
Head of Protocol

Domenico Giani,
Chief of Vatican Gendarmerie

The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

The Vatican's challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond

“A unique guide written without discernable bias to the current politics and outlook of the Vatican in a key area of Italy’s ‘Near Abroad’. Full of solidly researched and sourced interesting information that is not widely known, even to specialists”- Professor James Pettifer, Oxford University

Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and Beyond

By Matteo Albertini and Chris Deliso

Buy now on Amazon Kindle

Le sfide del Vaticano nei Balcani– Italiano

Published: Jan. 9, 2015

While the 2013 election of the charismatic, reformist Pope Francis has renewed world fascination with the Vatican, the Holy See’s vast contemporary role in the Balkans has been mostly ignored- until now.

Read a book excerpt on Vatican diplomacy, at TransConflict

Read a book excerpt on Medjugorje, at New Advent

Combining extensive on-the-ground research, top-secret intelligence and interviews with media reports and official Church data, The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans is the first comprehensive analysis of the Holy See’s current relationships and activities in Balkan countries at the levels of state, church and outreach to local populations.

Click here for other Vatican coverage

Directory of Topics: The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

While existing books have concentrated on the Vatican’s Balkan role in the 1990s, WWII or earlier conflict periods, no study until now has documented the current Balkan policies and activities of the Catholic Church’s senior leadership. As such, The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans represents a valuable new contribution: it reveals how the world’s most storied religious institution operates today, in one of the world’s historically most volatile regions.

Review of The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans by Patrick Mondaca, ECPR’s Standing Group on Organised Crime (Jan. 2015)

Written by two veteran analysts with expertise in Balkan and European affairs, this fact-rich study will appeal to both general readers and specialist practitioners. In meticulous detail, Albertini and Deliso document the Holy See’s activities in seven Balkan states, and reveal the Church’s overriding goal of bolstering – and even expanding – Catholic power, supported by local clergies, charities, special Orders and allied governments. This book is thus a must-read both for those interested in the Church and for those keen on understanding the larger geopolitics affecting Southeast Europe today.

The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans– recommended on the 2015 book list of the Friends of Mt Athos

Analyzing the Vatican’s goals within the contexts of both its historic regional presence and the current policy priorities of Pope Francis, this detailed study systematically assesses the Holy See’s regional activities, as expedited by the diplomacy of some of the pope’s best nuncios (ambassadors)- and backed up by the Vatican’s formidable security and intelligence apparatus.

This book also provides, for the first time, the key partnerships and common projects of the Vatican and its European allies- who are casting a wary eye at a rejuvenated and expansionist Turkey, which has its own ambitions for its once-Ottoman lands.

Indeed, in The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans, readers will gain insights into not only religious matters, but also the complex, unreported geopolitical events that will affect the future of the Balkans, Europe, and the Vatican itself.

Topics addressed include:

-Structure and goals of Vatican operations, and key diplomatic personnel

-Official Vatican-Italy security protocols and practices

-Detailed accounts of Francis’ 2014 visits to Albania and Turkey, including previously-unknown security intelligence

-Vatican relations with Orthodox Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia

-The importance of the Medjugorje pilgrimage site to Bosnian Catholics, and to the Vatican’s evangelical mission

-Montenegro’s famed holy relics as a source of international intrigue

-The Knights of Malta’s deep regional political role and charitable works

-The little-known financial activity of private-banking tax haven Luxembourg in aiding Catholic charities in the Balkans

-The secret role of Hungarian intelligence in executing Vatican policy

-The Vatican’s increasing manipulation of ethnic Albanian sentiments for religious and geopolitical interests

-The struggle for religious and nationalist identity in ethnic Albanian communities, Islam, and the region’s future stability concerns

-The ramped-up spy war between Germany and Turkey in the Balkans, at a time of US disengagement

-EU macro-regional development projects 2014-2020 and harmonization of Vatican-EU policy in the Balkans

-Five detailed appendices, with official data on Vatican-Balkan diplomatic relations, Vatican diplomatic profiles, charities, and data on representation of the Knights of Malta and Jesuit entities

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Visit, or follow on Twitter: @balkanalysis’s previous coverage of Vatican activities in the Balkans:

Bosnians Await Pope Francis’ June 2015 Visit – February 9, 2015

Developments in the Croatian Catholic Church under Pope Francis – December 7, 2014
Turkish National Security Threats and the Upcoming Papal Visit – November 11, 2014
Pope Francis to Visit Albania with Future Vatican Balkan Events in Preparation – August 30, 2014
The Vatican’s Growing Prominence in Kosovo – April 14, 2011
Lost in Conversion – October 23, 2008


Go to Directory of Topics: The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

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