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The Vatican (officially Vatican City State ) is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, the capital of Italy. With an area of 44 hectares and a population of less than 1,000, it is the smallest internationally recognised state in the world. Its territory is largely surrounded by a historic wall and consists mainly of gardens, churches and other buildings. The Vatican was established in 1929 under the Lateran Treaties, signed by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri on behalf of the Holy See and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini on behalf of the Kingdom of Italy. The Treaties speak about Vatican City as a new formation (preamble and Article III.), not as a remnant of the much larger Papal State (756–1870), which previously included a large part of central Italy. Most of this territory was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860 and the last part, the City of Rome, ten years later in 1870.

The Vatican is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the life-elected bishop of Rome bishop – the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See and the location of the Pope’s residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace. Vatican documents are published in Italian, which is also the Vatican’s communication language. The Vatican’s territory includes the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Peter’s Square with the Apostolic Palace, adjacent buildings and the Vatican Gardens. There are significant cultural monuments and institutions in this territory, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Apostolic Library. The Vatican City State further includes extraterritorial properties with a special legal status, including the Papal (“Patriarchal” until 2008) Basilicas of St. John in the Lateran, St. Peter’s outside the Walls, Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Basilica of Saint Mary Major and the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The Vatican’s economy has a unique non-commercial character. The official currency has been the euro since 1999, replacing the Vatican lira. The Vatican mints its own type of euro coins, production of which is strictly limited. As a result, the coins, like Vatican stamps, are highly sought-after by collectors. They have been issued by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State since 1 January 2002. Each of the series has so far displayed the same motif on coins of all denominations – a portrait of the acting pope, the inscription “CITTÀ DEL VATICANO”, 12 stars symbolising the European Union, and the year they were minted.

The Vatican has its own bank, the IOR, and even an ATM, probably the only one with instructions in Latin. The Vatican is not a member of the UN (as one of a few states) and has not, for example, signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Vatican is not a member of the European Union or of the European Monetary Union, but thanks to its monetary union with Italy it can mint its own original euro coins.

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