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Pope Francis reforms Vatican City State’s ‘Constitution’

Pope Francis issues a new Fundamental Law, replacing that of the year 2000, "to respond to the needs of our times". It makes all international commitments undertaken by the Holy See operative for the State as well. The Pontifical Commission is no longer restricted to cardinals, but laymen and women will also be able to take part, and it also envisages more stringent regulations for the provisional and final consultative budget.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

In order to "respond to the needs of our times" and to “render operational” situations that stem from the international commitments undertaken by the Apostolic See "with the renewed requirements that such a specific aspect demands", the Pope today, 13 May, the liturgical Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, issued a new Fundamental Law of Vatican City State.

The Pope thus renews the 'Constitution' of Vatican City State, replacing the one dated 26 November 2000, issued by Saint John Paul II, which in turn succeeded the one issued on 7 June 1929 by Pius XI.

The reform, therefore, comes the framework of the numerous reforms carried out during these ten years of the pontificate. The Law, in fact, "assumes and completes" the regulatory updates already issued and the institutional profiles made operational in the State with the reform of the Law on the sources of law, of the Law on the Governance of Vatican City State, and of the Law that regulates the judicial system.

As provided for in the "Constitution" of 2000, the Pope confirms "the fullness of authority" of the Supreme Pontiff "which includes “the fullness of legislative, executive and judicial powers".

“The singular peculiarity and autonomy of the Vatican legal system" is also confirmed, and is distinct from that of the Roman Curia.

The State's jurisdiction over extra-territorial areas, or rather "the exercise of any consequent power over the territory, defined by the Lateran Treaty, and in buildings and areas where State or Holy See institutions operate and personal and functional guarantees and immunities are in force under international law" is confirmed as well.

The Pope also confirms the legislative function of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, until now composed of a Cardinal President (who is also the President of the Governorate) and other cardinals.

With the new Fundamental Law - and this is one of the novelties - this will not be the case: in addition to the cardinals, the Commission will also include "other members" appointed by the Pope for a five-year term. Therefore, laymen and laywomen will also be able to take part.

Another important novelty concerns more stringent and detailed regulations regarding the provisional and final budget that is deliberated annually by the Pontifical Commission, "in conformity with the rules of accounting" and "with acts that have the force of law". The Commission deliberates the three-year financial plan submitting "these acts directly to the approval of the Supreme Pontiff". The budget must ensure "the balance" of income and expenditure" and be inspired by the "principles of clarity, transparency and fairness".

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13 May 2023, 12:00