St. Peter's square is the location where Nero, after blaming Christians for the fires that consumed Rome, were put to death. The obelisk in the middle of Peter's square was originally taken by Emperor Caligula (emperor from 37 to 41 A.D.) from Heliopolis, Egypt to decorate the spina of his circus and is thus its last visible remnant.
Popes in their secular role ruled portions of the Italian peninsula for more than a thousand years until the mid-19th century, when many of the Papal States were seized by the newly united Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the pope's holdings were further circumscribed when Rome itself was annexed
Disputes between a series of "prisoner popes" and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. The Lateran Treaties also granted the Holy See extraterritorial authority over 23 sites in Rome (including St. Peter's square) and five outside of Rome, including the Pontifical Palace at Castel Gandolfo (the Pope's summer residence). In 1984, a concordat between the Holy See and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion.
Present concerns of the Holy See include religious freedom, international development, the environment, the Middle East, China, the decline of religion in Europe, terrorism, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the application of church doctrine in an era of rapid change and globalization. About one billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.
Holy See (Vatican City)
0.44 square kilometer (or .169 sq. miles), which is about 0.7 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC. This makes Vatican City the world's smallest state.
836 (July 2012 estimate).
Economy of Vatican City and Holy See
The Holy See is supported financially by a variety of sources, including investments, real estate income, and donations from Catholic individuals, dioceses, and institutions. This incomes helps to fund the Vatican bureaucracy, diplomatic missions and media outlets. The separate Vatican City State budget includes the Vatican museums and post office and is supported financially by the sale of stamps, coins, medals and tourist mementos. It also receives income from fees for admission to museums and by publications sales. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome.
Industries of Vatican City include printing, the production of coins, medals and postage stamps, mosaics and staff uniforms. The Vatican also has worldwide banking and financial activities.
The defense of Vatican City is the responsibility of Italy. Ceremonial and limited security duties are performed by the Pontifical Swiss Guard (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia).
The Pope elected for life by the College of Cardinals. The next election will be held after the death of the current pope. The secretary of state is appointed by the pope.