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

Macedonia and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

Macedonia is a state of limited importance for the Vatican, owing to the very small number of Catholics, but its strategic geographical placement at the very center of the Balkans and its ethnic and religious balance have made it of keen interest to Catholic policy-makers. The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond


Macedonia has had good relations with the Vatican since declaring independence in 1991. However, it is not considered significantly important to warrant its own nunciature (it was previously overseen by other nunciatures, currently, by the one in Sofia, Bulgaria). This is significant because it indicates that much of what the Holy See learns about Macedonia runs the risk of being ‘filtered’ by influencers in Bulgaria, which has its own historic interests in its western neighbor.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has made some inroads with charity activities and church-building. In recent years, the Holy See has attached more importance to Macedonia, with Kiro Stojanov becoming the first ethnically-Macedonian bishop of Skopje in over a century.

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The Catholic identity here is also colored by the odd historical phenomenon of the ‘Byzantine Rite’ worshippers of the southeast. Ultimately deriving from the Byzantine Orthodox populations that accepted the rule of the pope during the failed Church unification program in the mid-15th century, this population actually comprises the majority of Macedonian Catholics. Unlike in other countries, it is hierarchically administered by the country’s bishop.

Macedonia has attempted to market itself to the Catholic world through not only the annual veneration of the relics of Ss Cyril & Methodius in Rome (jointly with Bulgaria), but also with inter-faith dialogue events and the creation of a House-Museum for Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje.

While the latter has become a much-visited tourist attraction, it is not enough to bring great interest from the Vatican. Indeed, despite repeated invitations, we expect that Pope Francis will not visit Macedonia any time soon. This owes partly to the low number of Catholics in the country, and partly to the pope’s desire to not make problems for the new government of fellow-traveler on the Left, Alexis Tsipras in Greece. In fact, considering that the Vatican does not even recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name, it is unlikely that it will do anything that could be presented by Greek nationalists as disrespectful to their claims.

Thus, the Catholic Church will continue to take a medium interest in Macedonia, and will continue to monitor it mostly in regards to political stability and signs of political and religious involvement from outside countries, particularly Turkey.

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