The terms “Vatican state” and “Holy See” are often used interchangeably, but they are very different things.

According to international law and diplomatic custom, it is the Holy See and not the Vatican city-state that is the recognized “legal personality” of the worldwide pastoral ministry of the bishop of Rome as head of the Catholic Church. Therefore, the Holy See existed for centuries as a diplomatic entity before the creation of the Vatican city-state in 1929.

And it is the Holy See, not the Vatican city-state, which exchanges diplomatic representations with 179 countries and is also represented at many intergovernmental bodies, including the European Union and the United Nations.

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