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Vatican City State Legal Research Guide

The purpose of this guide is to assist researchers in their search for information on the structure and organization of the temporal law of the Vatican City State (VCS).

International Status

The focus of the overwhelming majority of the legal commentary on the VCS revolves around the country’s status in international law.  The most complete treatment of this area of law is Hyginus Cardinale, The Holy See and the International Order. This work provides an extensive discussion of how the Holy See, the Church, and the VCS are united in international representation under the agency of the Holy See.

  • Hyginus Cardinale, The Holy See and the International Order (1976).  (STACKS JZ 1602 A5 C37 1976).

In addition, the following resources might be of value to researchers interested in the international status of the VCS.



  • Marian Sekerak & Karol Lovas, The Diplomacy of the Holy See and its Transformation in the Context of its Relations with the United Nations, 20 Rev. Faith & Int'l Aff. 69 (2022).

  • William Thomas Worster, The Human Rights Obligations of the Holy See Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 31 Duke J. Comp. & Int'l L. 351 (2021).

  • Kayleigh McManus, The Holy See's Compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 12 DePaul J. Soc. Just. 1 (2018).

  • Elizabeth Heger Boyle et al, The Catholic Church and International Law, 13 Ann. Rev. L. & Soc. Sci. 395 (2017).

  • John R. Morss, The International Legal Status of the Vatican/Holy See Complex, 26 Eur. J. Int'l L. 927 (2015).

  • Mariano Barbato, A State, A Diplomat, and a Transnational Church: The Multi-Layered Actorness of the Holy See, 21 Perspectives: Rev. Central Eur. Aff. 27 (2013).

  • LawJames Fantau, Rethinking the Sovereign Status of the Holy See: Towards a Greater Equality of States and Greater Protection of Citizens in United States Courts, 19 Card. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 487 (2011).

  • Chad Marzen, The Holy See's Worldwide Role and International Human Rights: Solely Symbolic, 86 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. 659 (2009).

  • Kurt Martens, The Position of the Holy See and Vatican City State in International Relations,  83 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. 729 (2006).

  • Noel Dias, Roman Catholic Church & International Law, 13 Sri Lanka L. J. 107 (2001). 

  • Robert John Araujo, The International Personality and Sovereignty of the Holy See, 50 Cath. U. L. Rev. 291 (2001).

  • Matthew Bathon, The Atypical Status of the Holy See, 34 Van. J. Trans. L. 597 (2001).

  • Yasmin Abdullah, The Holy See at United Nations Conferences: State or Church?, 96 Colum. L. Rev. 1835 (1996).

  • James A. Coridan, Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and the Holy See, 19 Case Western J. Int'l L. 361 (1987).

  • Pio Ciprotti, The Holy See: Its Function, Form, and Status in International Law, 8 Concilium 63 (1970).

  • Josef L. Kunz, The Status of the Holy See in International Law, 46 Am. J. Int’l L. 308 (1952).

  • Horace F. Cumbo, The Holy See and International Law, 2 Int’l L. Q. 603 (1949).

  • Herbert Wright, The Status of the Vatican City, 38 Am. J. Int’l L. 452 (1944).

  • Gordon Ireland, The State of the City of the Vatican, 27 Am. J. Int’l L. 271 (1933).

Essential Texts