The Vatican is an absolute ecclesiastical elective monarchy where the sitting pope (Bishop of Rome) has ex officio powers on the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the government. The pope exercises these powers through state organs acting in his name and authority. This form is elective monarchy because only a pope is elected and only pope can ascend to the seat. The election of the pope by cardinals is democratic because he must garner the support of a two-thirds majority.

Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from around the world and who are under the age of eighty years elect the pope upon death or retirement of a sitting pope. Cardinals meet the soonest possible after the vacancy and must remain in seclusion until they elect a new pope. This voting takes place within a conclave in Sistine Chapel. Candidates must be members of the church, baptized in the church and be in a position to be ordained as Bishops since the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. For absent cardinals, three cardinals collect their votes. Three other cardinals count the votes and another three verify the votes. Cardinals write the name of their preferred candidates and swear that his choice is best in the eyes of God. A slight irregularity leads to cancellation of the votes. Upon success, the votes are burnt and produce a white smoke significantly announcing to the public that there is a new {ope, followed by church bells. Immediately, the Dean asks the elected Pope if he accepts. If the answer is "Accepto", his reign begins immediately but if it is “not” his reign begins during inauguration seven days later. The elected pope chooses his regnal name immediately.

The Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State is the Vatican’s legislative body and has seven members whom the Pope last selected in 2013 and who meet in the Palace of the Governorate. The head of this body is the President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State working with six cardinals. Officially, a serving Pope’s residence is within the Papal Apartments in the Apostolic Palace (the Papal Palace, Vatican Palace, Palace of the Vatican or Palace of Sixtus V) built between 1471 and 1605. The palace is in the eastern part of the Vatican. However, after his election, Pope Francis made the Domus Sanctae Marthae, completed in 1996, his official residence.

There are no political parties in the Vatican City. It is a theocratic state.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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