Vatican City State Promulgates New Constitution

Updates 1929 Fundamental Law

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2001 ( The Vatican today published its new constitution, which formalizes the governmental changes that were made in the city-state last century.

The text substitutes the Fundamental Law written in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. It was signed by John Paul II last November and will take effect Feb. 22.

The introduction to the constitution explains that, with this initiative, the Bishop of Rome has responded «to the need to give systematic and organic form to the changes introduced in the juridical ordering of Vatican City State,» during the century that just ended.

The introduction also states that the document´s fundamental objective is to guarantee «the liberty of the Apostolic See» and ensure «the real and visible independence of the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his mission in the world.»

The new text of the Fundamental Law was written last year by a juridical commission which held 14 working sessions over 10 months, ending in November.

Article 1 declares that the Pope, as «sovereign of Vatican City State, has the fullness of legislative, executive and judicial powers.»

He is also responsible for international relations, which he exercises through the State Secretariat. The constitution then lists the bodies responsible for exercising the powers of the state.

Bishop Celestino Migliore, undersecretary for relations with states of the State Secretariat, was a member of the commission that wrote the text.

He explained today on Vatican Radio that the document is not so much a new constitution or law, as an «updating of the Fundamental Law,» which was promulgated on the occasion of the Lateran Pacts, which recognized the Vatican´s international juridical personality, following Italy´s annexation of the pontifical territories.

According to Bishop Migliore, the novelties are in the distinction made in the administration of the legislative and executive powers. «The legislative is stably entrusted, in a delegated and collegial way, to a commission of cardinals appointed for five years by the Pope,» he said.

The bishop added that the «executive power is entrusted by the Pope to the cardinal president of the commission, assisted by a secretary-general.» Hence the post of governor, vacant since 1952, has been abolished.

As regards the judicial power, the bishop said that the Pope delegates it vicariously to the civil courts of the state, which were reformed by John Paul II at the end of the 1980s.

Moreover, the law establishes the institutional relations with the State Secretariat, which not only represents Vatican City State internationally in countries and other subjects of international law, but is also the instrument of communication with the Pope for the presentation of draft laws and budgets, Bishop Migliore explained.

In reality, he added, the new text does no more than juridically recognize what has been implemented for decades.

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