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

Security and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

Providing security for the pope, his entourage and local Catholic facilities is of paramount importance to the Holy See. While fulfillment of this task resides primarily with a small but efficient internal security structure, the Vatican also enjoys strong cooperation with the Italian state, other countries, institutions like Interpol and other entities.The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond


While its main role is safeguarding the pope and Vatican City, the Vatican’s main security institution, the Gendarmerie Corps (official website) carries out many other tasks as well.

The gendarmerie, run currently by the powerful Domenico Giani – an experienced veteran of Italian state intelligence and crime-fighting – oversees security preparations for papal visits abroad, in conjunction with local partners. Founded in 1816, the Corps has undergone various permutations in its time but remains one of Europe’s oldest such institutions. The 130-strong force works closely, on the domestic front, with the pope’s traditional Swiss Guard.

The official relationship between the Italian State and the Holy See in security matters was stipulated by the Lateran Treaty of 1929. While the Vatican has its own police, and is a state unto itself, it tends to grant Italian magistrates and police officials a certain space to operate during common investigations.

Buy The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans now on Amazon Kindle

In recent years, the increasing threat of Islamic terrorist attacks against the pope and Vatican City – vividly attested by the summer 2014 warnings from Islamic State – have caused Vatican security planners to beef up their defenses, as well as their partnerships with foreign intelligence services. And the eruption of the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal (among other events) has inspired the Holy See to hire a cyber-security expert.

Chief among international partners is Italy’s External Intelligence and Security Agency (Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna, or AISE). In 2008, a special agreement between the Vatican and Interpol was inked, giving the pope’s security planners new access to criminal databases and the ability to run requests by global law enforcement.

While terrorism, kidnapping and sabotage remain the most sensitive vulnerabilities that Vatican security seeks to address on a regular basis, there are other areas of concern as well. For example, Chief Inspector Giani has spoken publicly about the need to protect religious relics and historic structures, highlighting the effect that wars and black-market economies have on Christian heritage.

We expect that the Vatican’s security measures will increase significantly, if not visibly in the years ahead. The increasing volatility of the Islamic world and recent terrorist attacks in Europe highlight the fact that Christian and Jewish targets remain the most ‘desirable’ for increasingly powerful and well-funded terrorist entities.

Further, we anticipate that the Holy See will, through its diplomatic, ecclesiastical and charity networks, take a preventive approach to stopping possible terrorist attacks, kidnappings and assassination attempts on the ground as well. Bosnia is now the Vatican’s main security and intelligence focus in Europe, due to preparations for Pope Francis’ June 2015 visit to the country. A sign of the ‘invisible hand’ of the Holy See may come in the form of increased Bosnian police raids on Islamist targets in the months ahead.

Return to Main Directory of Topics: The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans Page

Return to Main Balkanalysis Vatican Page

Vatican’s news feed

View Vatican in a larger map