The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes, "holy seat") is the office of the Bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope. The term Holy See also means the Pope and the Roman Curia, the central government of the Roman Catholic Church.
Every episcopal see is seen as holy and the Eastern Orthodox Church constantly applies the adjective "holy" or "sacred" (ἱερά) to all its sees, but "the Holy See" (definite singular) normally means the see of Rome, which is also called "the Apostolic See". While "Apostolic See" can refer to any see founded by any of the Apostles, the term is in this case used to refer to the see of the bishop seen as successor of the chief of the Apostles, Saint Peter.
Organization of the Holy See
The Pope governs the Church through the Roman Curia. The Roman Curia consists of the Secretariat of State, nine Congregations, three Tribunals, 11 Pontifical Councils, and a complex of offices that administer church affairs at the highest level. The Secretariat of State, under the Cardinal Secretary of State, directs and coordinates the Curia. The current incumbent, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, is the Holy See's equivalent of a prime minister. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary of the Section for Relations With States of the Secretariat of State acts as the Holy See's foreign minister. Bertone and Mamberti have been named in their respective roles under by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2006.
Among the most active of the major Curial institutions are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees church doctrine; the Congregation for Bishops, which coordinates the appointment of bishops worldwide; the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees all missionary activities; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which deals with international peace and social issues.
The Holy See is especially active in international organizations and is a member of the following groups:
- International Grains Council (IGC)
- International Committee for Military Medicine (ICMM)
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO)
- Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
- Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
- Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)*
- Universal Postal Union (UPU), International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT)
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- Note: In 1971, the Holy See announced the decision to adhere to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to "give its moral support to the principles that form the base of the treaty itself."
The Holy See is also a permanent observer of the following groups:
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
- Latin Union (LU)
- Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington
- Organization of African Unity (OAU)
- United Nations*
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)
- United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS)
- United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- World Tourism Organization (WToO)
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- World Food Programme (WFP)
- Note: the Holy See is a permanent observer in the United Nations and, in July 2004, gained all the rights of full membership except voting. According to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See Permanent Observer, "We have no vote because this is our choice." He added that the Holy See considers that its current status "is a fundamental step that does not close any path for the future. The Holy See has the requirements defined by the UN statute to be a member state and, if in the future it wished to be so, this resolution would not impede it from requesting it."
The Holy See is an observer on an informal basis of the following groups:
- Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC)
- International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- United Nations Committee of Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS)
- World Meteorological Organization in Geneva (WMO)
The Holy See, not the Vatican City, maintains diplomatic relations with states (such as with the United Kingdom), and participates in international organizations. Foreign embassies are accredited to the Holy See, not to the Vatican City, and it is the Holy See that establishes treaties and concordats with other sovereign entities. When necessary, the Holy See will enter a treaty on behalf of the Vatican City.
Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See has extraterritorial authority over 23 sites in Rome and five Italian sites outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo. The same authority is extended under international law over the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in a foreign country.
Vatican City, the Holy See's sovereign territory
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