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New law on citizenship residence and access to the Vatican

· Promulgated by Benedict XVI on 22 February ·

On 22 February 2011, Feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI promulgated the law on citizenship, residence and access, n. CCXXXI, ordering that it should take effect from 1 March.

Given the importance, especially of a practical nature, of the new law, it would be helpful to recall the process followed in the preparation of the text and to comment briefly on its content.

On 26 November 2000 John Paul II promulgated the new fundamental law of Vatican City State and on 1 October 2008 the present Supreme Pontiff promulgated the new law on the sources of law, which respectively replace the previous laws of the same name, both dated 7 June 1929. After the publication of such important dispositions it appeared important to proceed also to revise the laws on citizenship and sojourn, dated 7 June 1929, n. III.

No one can fail to see the need to adapt Vatican law to the current situation, taking into consideration the profound changes that have occurred from 1929 to the present; in this regard the law on the government of Vatican City State, which was issued on 16 July 2002, should also be mentioned.

The law on citizenship and sojourn of 7 June 1929 was very outmoded in many respects. For example, a provision of Pius XII, of 6 July 1940, determined that the personnel of the Pontifical Representations (Nunciatures, Internunciatures, Apostolic Delegations) were to be granted Vatican citizenship durante munere . In this way, the status of the people with Italian citizenship who belong to the above-mentioned representations was the object of an exchange of notes between the Holy See and Italy, dated 23 July/17 August 1940.

Also concerning access and sojourn and access with vehicles (chapters II and III) the situation has greatly changed, especially at the practical level.

Therefore, the Holy Father Benedict XVI decided to form a commission charged with the task of drafting a new law.

This author was asked to preside over the commission, whose members were Mons. Ettore Balestrero and Mons. Felice Sergio Aumenta, and Messrs Claudio Ceresa, Vincenzo Mauriello, Carlo Carrieri, Raffaele Ottaviano and Costanzo Alessandrini. Mons. Balestrero, Undersecretary for Relations with States, took the place of his predecessor in that office, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who had been appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela.

The commission began its work on 23 April 2009, and on the following 1 July, after four plenary sessions and five sessions of various working groups composed of members of the same commission, they drew up a first draft of the whole normative text.

This draft was submitted for examination by legal experts who sent a their suggestions; in October 2009 work resumed and, after nine plenary meetings, the final text was completed and was sent on 16 June 2010 to the Cardinal Secretary of State. This text was approved by the Holy Father.

Now it seems appropriate to highlight some of the data concerning the content of the new norms.

First, the title now is: “Law on citizenship, residence and access”, while the title of the normative text 1929 was: “Law on citizenship and sojourn”.

It should be pointed out that the figure of the “resident” has taken on her greater importance in the Vatican reality; over the course of the years many people who lived in the State have preferred, even though they fulfilled all the requirements, not to assume the status of citizen which, in the 1929 law, was considered normal for all those living in Vatican City.

The Preamble emphasizes that the new law is part of a series of normative revisions currently in progress: in that regard, it mentions the fundamental law and the law on the sources of law and it also makes mention of the particular nature of the State and the de facto reality existing in it.

The previous law was subdivided into three chapters, to which was added the rubric on General and Transitory Dispositions ; in all there were 33 articles.

The new law is subdivided into four chapters, pertaining respectively Citizenship (articles 1-6); Residence (articles 6-8); Access to Vatican City (articles 9-13); General Dispositions (articles 14-16). Therefore there are only 16 articles and, in effect, the text has been significantly simplified; in some cases the law refers to determinations left to regulatory activities. As for the rest, the new law on the sources of law is composed of 13 articles, while the previous one had 25.

Subsequent to the above-mentioned disposition of Pius XII of 6 July 1940 and the exchange of notes of 23 July – 17 August 1940 the new law provides for the attribution of Vatican citizenship to the Holy See's diplomatic personnel.

In chapter i, article 1 (Acquisition of Citizenship) it states that the citizens of Vatican City State are: the cardinals resident in Vatican City or in Rome; thus the new law contains a disposition provided for in article 21 of the Lateran Treaty. As has already been mentioned, the Holy See's diplomats are also citizens as are all those who reside in Vatican City if they are required to by reason of their office or service.

The article then indicates those persons who, although they are not citizens by law, can request Vatican citizenship; this involves, in any case, persons residing in the State.

Articles 2 and 3 pertain to authorization to reside and the loss of citizenship; articles 4 and 5 regulate the keeping of the citizenship registry and the issuing of identity cards.

In chapter ii, article 6 regulates the status of resident and the relative authorizations; articles 7 and 8 concern two topics concerning residents who are not citizens: the registration of personal data and the issuing of a document of recognition.

In chapter III, the subject of article 9 is title to access, that is the permission that must be obtained by those who, not being citizens or residents, have some reason to request access to Vatican City. The beginning of the document recalls that there is a part of the Vatican territory to which there is free access: namely, St Peter’s Square. I is an integral part of the territory of the State, and ordinarily accessible to everyone, without any formality, no different from any square in Rome. The same holds for St Peter’s Basilica, although since the heightened danger of international terrorism, prudence demands a series of checks that were not previously applied. Access to the Vatican Museums also requires no other formality than those required by other museums; therefore, large parts of the Vatican territory are accessible without special authorization.

The remaining articles deal with access passes and permanent permissions (article 1o), to persons not required to have a permit (article 11) and denial of access for just reasons (article 12); the temporary denial of access can be ordered by a decree of, one “Giudice Unico”, as shown by the reference to the law of 14 December 1994, n. CCXXVII, which simplified the penal legislation. According to article 13, vehicles driven by those who are not citizens or residents can enter Vatican City subject to authorization, and the circulation of vehicles within the State is regulated by appropriate norms.

In chapter iv, articles 14 and 15 concern accommodation. Article 16, deals with the sanctions to be applied in cases of violation of the dispositions of the law under examination, which is limited to stating that those sanctions are established by law or regulations.

As usual, the best way to gain adequate knowledge of the new disposition is to read it directly and attentively; the points made here are meant to give the reader an overview, but certainly do not provide a thorough knowledge of the provisions contained in it. It is hoped, however, that these brief comments have enabled the reader to grasp the essential content of the text and how it responds to the situations and demands regarding the subjects that it disciplines.




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 23, 2020