VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2001 ( Just for the record, Vatican City State does not need to abolish the death penalty. It did so decades ago.

That was confirmed today by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls in response to statements in the Italian press.

He published a note confirming that, within the next few days, the new "Fundamental Law," or constitution, of the Vatican City State will be published.

Contrary to Italian press reports, the new constitution "makes no mention whatsoever of the death penalty, as it was abolished by Paul VI with law No. 50 of June 21, 1969," the spokesman said.

His statement continued: "The new text updates the previous law, establishing a clearer distinction between the legislative, executive, and judicial powers, it sanctions a closer relation between the Government [of this City State] and the Secretariat of State," the Vatican body that advises the Pope most closely on the government of the universal Church.

In fact, Vatican City State and the secretariat are two different realities. The city-state has juridical personality, but it is the latter that is responsible for maintaining the international relations of Vatican City State.

The constitution, which according to the Italian press will be published Feb. 22, recognizes the fundamental rights, proper to every state, of the citizens and workers of Vatican City State.

This tiny state came into being in 1929, as a result of the Lateran Pacts. In 1998 its population numbered 860 inhabitants.

The Pope is the absolute sovereign and highest executive, legislative and judicial authority. The cardinal secretary of state represents the Pope in the state´s civil government and international relations. He is an observer in the most important international organizations, including the United Nations, and maintains diplomatic relations with 175 countries.