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

Turkey and The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans

Turkey has a historically complex relationship with the Holy See, and its small Catholic community has come under threat in recent years, including attacks on parishioners and murders of priests.The Vatican challenges in the Balkans Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and beyond

On a state level, relations are however fairly good, with Pope Francis making the trip to Ankara and Istanbul in late November. He visited with both top Turkish leaders and with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos, thus using the opportunity to highlight both inter-religious dialogue and Christian unity.


In Turkey, the Holy See’s mission will continue to require deft diplomacy and an above-average consideration for domestic politics. While the Catholic religion is formally allowed in Turkey, it is not encouraged by the state, and discrimination in local areas is common. Catholics are required to indicate their religion on ID cards, and do not have the same institutional protection as do Greek, Jewish and Armenian minorities.

The pope’s legates thus tend to take a much lower profile than in other Balkan countries, and not get involved in politics. It is clear that Pope Francis took the opportunity to visit Turkey, however, as a symbolic message to Islamic extremists – the same ones who had recently called for bringing Sharia law to Rome – to indicate that co-existence between the West and a Muslim state like Turkey was indeed possible.

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After the visit, of course, the lot of Turkey’s tiny Catholic population did not suddenly improve, but the Vatican at least could say that its leader had been well-received and managed to communicate his message of peace. Most significantly, however, was the continued cooperation with Bartholomeos indicated by the visit. It should not be forgotten that the latter had been the first Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal inauguration in a millenium, when he made the trip for Francis’ elevation in 2013.

Today, with the Middle East descending even further into anarchy, the Holy See will use the relative stability of Turkey as a place to continue monitoring the security situation, and working towards Church re-unification- something that, as Francis’s papal predecessor said, is ‘what everyone longs for.’

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