Saturday, May 31, 2008

Separation of See and State

Now this just gets plain confusing...

Vatican City, which may or may not be the smallest county, issues passports. That part is not confusing.

Vatican City exactly coincides with The Holy See, like a diocese but not quite the same as a diocese. Okay, that part is a little confusing. The Holy See also issues passports. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

It is The Holy See -- and not Vatican City -- that exchanges ambassadors with other countries. For example, the United States exchanges ambassadors with The Holy See not with Vatican City (the actual sovereign nation).

The Holy See (not the State of Vatican City) maintains formal diplomatic relations with 176 sovereign states and the European Union.

International Law recognizes the pope as sovereign of Vatican City and as the sovereign entity of The Holy See.

If you are with me so far, an ambassador of the pope -- called a Papal Nuncio -- is not the representative of any physical country. For example, between the dissolution of the Papal States and the creation of Vatican City, the popes still exchanged ambassadors with many countries.

Now, the tricky part. In every country, there is a Dean of the foreign ambassadors assigned to that country. This is usually the ambassador with the most seniority. The deanship is the most prestigious job among ambassadors, and the Dean is usually the first to be told import news. The Dean also represents diplomats when questions of privilege or immunity arise. At ceremonial occasions, it is the dean who is first in line. In the United States, it is the Dean who is invited to official White House arrival ceremonies for heads of state.

International Law provides that a country can sidestep the ambassador with the most senority and designate the Papal Nuncio instead. In other words, the top job goes to the guy not representing an actual country.

President Reagan established full diplomatic relations with The Holy See in 1984, ending more than a century of U.S. opposition to such relations.

[In case you're wondering, it has been storming all evening and I was bored so I read about ambassadorships, just in case anybody offers me one!]

No comments: