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

Catholic Charities and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

The key role of Catholic charities in providing vital humanitarian assistance, running development projects, conducting religious outreach and abetting intelligence-gathering in the Balkans has been discussed in The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans, which contains a complete list of active charities and contact data in a complementary appendix.The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond


While some Catholic charity activity predated the fall of Yugoslavia, it was primarily the wars of the 1990s that brought the main players into the region.

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This presence allows the Holy See, crucially, to extend its reach even to places with little or no Catholic representation. The input its delegates receive from local ‘non-official channels,’ complemented by the official Vatican cooperation with the Italian state, INTERPOL and other institutions, also dramatically increases the Holy See’s ability to gather intelligence.

Of course, the main activity of the Catholic charities, both large and small is humanitarian aid and development work. These activities can range from education, health care and disaster relief to refugee assistance, volunteerism, evangelization and even political intercession in times of crisis.

The largest NGO present has long been Caritas, the worldwide Confederation of Catholic Bishops’ Organizations. The American charity Catholic Relief is another major charity present, though it has a more limited focus. Another major Catholic charity, though less well-known outside of Italy, is the Comunità di Sant’Egidio (Community of Saint Giles), a generally well-respected group with long activities in Albania and Kosovo.

A final major charity present is the Germany-based Aid to the Church in Need, led by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza. This powerful organization is now part of the Holy See’s infrastructure, having become a Pontifical Foundation in 2011 under decision of Pope Benedict XVI, and has branches and activities in many countries.

An array of smaller, mostly Italian charities are also active on the ground in the Balkans. Although they have more modest capacities than the above global entities, many are well-funded or have intimate connections with important businessmen, politicians and institutional figures in Italy.

In general, the humanitarian mandate of Catholic charities and NGOs in the Balkans – as everywhere else in the world – gives them legitimate contacts with leaders of government, business and society in the countries where they operate. And the inherent allegiance of these organizations to the Holy See allows them to become, in the diplomatic sense, force multipliers for the Vatican on many levels.

Thus, given the numerically small number of official Vatican diplomatic personnel in the region, and the relative minority of Catholics across much of the Balkans, the infrastructure, activities and personnel of Catholic charities and NGOs constitutes an indispensable resource for the Holy See and the execution of its regional interests.

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