Emblem of the Holy See

Emblem of the Holy See

The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes) is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, the episcopal see of the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. It is the central point of reference for the church everywhere and the focal point of communion due to its prominence. It traces its origin to the apostolic era, when Saint Peter arrived in Rome to evangelize, thus forming a community of believers there which maintained a significant presence. Today, it is responsible for the governance of the faithful, organized in their local Christian communities.

The Holy See acts and speaks for the whole church. It was also recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations could be maintained. Often incorrectly referred to as "the Vatican", the "Holy See" is not the same entity as the "Vatican City State", which came into existence only in 1929 CE because of the Lateran Treaty; the Holy See dates back to antiquity. Ambassadors were officially accredited not to the Vatican City State but to "the Holy See", and Papal representatives to states and international organizations are recognized as representing the Holy See, not the Vatican City State.

The Holy See was viewed as analogous to a sovereign state, having a centralized government called the Roman Curia with the Secretary of State as its chief administrator and various departments essential to administration comparable to ministries and executive departments. It entered diplomatic relations with states, and had Vatican City as its sovereign territory.

Though all episcopal sees may be considered holy, the expression "the Holy See" (without further specification) was normally used in international relations (and in the canon law of the Catholic Church) to refer to the See of Rome, viewed as the central government of the Catholic Church.

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