GoJIL Vol. 3, No. 3 (2011)
The Legal Status of the Holy See
The Holy See enjoys rights under international law that few, if any, non-State actors (excluding intergovernmental organizations) enjoy: it has joined various intergovernmental organizations, it is a party to a substantial number of bilateral and multilateral treaties, it sends and receives diplomatic representatives, is said to enjoy immunity from jurisdiction, and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. However, unlike the Vatican City State, the Holy See is not to be characterized as a State, given that it has a global spiritual remit and that it can act internationally without a territorial base. Instead, it is a sui generis non-State international legal person which borrows its personality from its ‘spiritual sovereignty' as the center of the Catholic Church.
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