The Holy See (; ) is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, the episcopal see of the Pope. It serves as the central point of reference for the church everywhere and the focal point of communion due to its position as the pre-eminent see of the whole church. 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 Christian presence. Today, it is responsible for the governance of the faithful, organized in their local Christian communities.
The Holy See is viewed as analogous to a sovereign state, having a bureaucracy called the Roman Curia (''Latin'' for ''Roman Court'') similar to a centralized government, the Cardinal Secretary of State as its chief administrator and various department known as Dicastery essential to administration comparable to ministries and executive departments. The Holy See is an independently sovereign entity, capable of entering diplomatic relations with states; however, the Holy See holds the Vatican City city enclave in Rome as sovereign territory.
Diplomatically, the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole church. It is also recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained.〔Text taken directly from http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/country-profile/europe/holy-see/ (viewed on 14 December 2011), on the website of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office.〕〔The Holy See's sovereignty has been recognized explicitly in many international agreements and is particularly emphasized in article 2 of the Lateran Treaty of 11 February 1929, in which "Italy recognizes the sovereignty of the Holy See in international matters as an inherent attribute in conformity with its traditions and the requirements of its mission to the world" ((Lateran Treaty, English translation )).〕 Often informally 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 because of the Lateran Treaty; the Holy See, the episcopal see of Rome, dates back to antiquity. Ambassadors are 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 creation of the Vatican City state was meant to ensure the diplomatic and spiritual independence of the Pope.
Though all episcopal sees may be considered holy, the expression "the Holy See" (without further specification) is normally used in international relations (and in the canon law of the Catholic Church)〔(Code of Canon Law, canon 361 ), (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 48 )〕 to refer to the See of Rome viewed as the central government of the Catholic Church.
Every see is considered holy. In Greek, the adjective "holy" or "sacred" ( transliterated as ''hiera'') is constantly applied to all such sees as a matter of course. In the West, the adjective is not commonly added, but it does form part of an official title of two sees: as well as Rome, the Bishopric of Mainz (the former Archbishopric of Mainz), which was also of electoral and primatial rank, bears the title of "the Holy See of Mainz" (Latin: ''Sancta Sedes Moguntina'').
The word "see" comes from the Latin word "sedes", meaning "seat", which refers to the Episcopal throne (cathedra). The term "Apostolic See" can refer to any see founded by one of the Apostles, but, when used with the definite article, it is used in the Catholic Church to refer specifically to the see of the Bishop of Rome, whom that Church sees as successor of Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles.〔() St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles〕 While Saint Peter's basilica in Vatican City is perhaps the church most associated with the Papacy, the actual cathedral of Holy See is the church of Saint John Lateran within the city of Rome.〔Although Saint John Lateran is legally within Rome, Italy, it is one of the properties of the Holy See granted extraterritorial privileges.〕
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