Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. It’s also the official home of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Little as it is, the state is home to some of the most magnificent attractions in the world.
Among them is the 17th century Saint Peter’s Square and a Museum that holds some of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Get to know 101 Surprising Facts About St. Peter’s and the Vatican.
Interestingly though, nobody gets to call the beautiful Vatican City his/her birthplace. Not even the country’s residents!
Why is nobody born in Vatican City?
Nobody is born in Vatican City because there are no hospitals or facilities to cater to the birth of children. All citizens are from other countries, and most of these are celibate men. It means that they are not allowed to get married or have children due to religion.
The fact that there’s no hospital in Vatican City, is just the technical part. A closer look at the country’s key aspects will help us answer this question in its totality.
Understanding Vatican City
The whole of Vatican City is located in Rome, the capital of Italy. And this is how the state came to be:
Long before the mid-19th century, much of Italy was part of Papal States that were under the rulership of the Pope- a pope is the world leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome was the capital of the Italian Papal State. It was during this period that the Basilica of St. Peter’s and the Vatican Palace was built. Today, the two buildings are key parts of Vatican City.
In 1870, the unification of Italy ended the papal rule and made the Papal territories part of the new Italian state. The office of the Pope did not agree with the move to end their rule. Because of the disagreement, they stayed inside the Vatican and did not engage in anything outside the city.
This led to a dispute that lasted for nearly 60 years between Italy and a series of popes. The dispute ended when the Vatican signed an agreement with Italy, recognizing the Vatican City as an independent state with the Pope as the head of the state.
Why is Nobody Born in Vatican City?
Now that we have established that the Vatican City is a sovereign state, why is nobody born in Vatican city? For this, we need to look at the residents of the Vatican. As I continue, you will find out that there are men and women of reproductive age inside the Vatican. I will get into the details of why there are still no children born there.
Vatican City’s Residence is Related to Work or Service
If you take a look at most countries, the majority of their population is made up of people born within the country. That is not the case with the Vatican City. So, where do the inhabitants of the Vatican state come from?
Given that the State is the center of the authority of the universal Roman Catholic church, the inhabitants of the Vatican city reside there by their reason of service to the office of the Pope.
The population of the country as of 2019 was 799. Only 450 of these are citizens. The rest are residents with permission to live in the country.
These include religious leaders, diplomats to the state, and people who work or hold various official positions. Some of these are Italians while the rest come from different countries from all over the world. None of them were born in the country.
Note that I am using the word residents instead of citizens. The reason being, living in the Vatican City does not automatically make you a citizen.
Fun Fact: Vatican residents can invite friends to their houses. However, there are strict guidelines during their stay. Only parents and siblings can sleep over, everybody else has to leave before midnight!
Vatican City’s Citizenship is not by Birth
Typically you become a citizen of a country if your parents are citizens of that country. In law, this is known as “Jus Sanguinis”.
Also, a child is given citizenship of the country that he/she is born in, even if the parents are non-citizens. This is known as “Jus solis”.
Both of these forms of citizenship are permanent.
However, when it comes to the Vatican, citizenship is different because it is temporary. The official term used is “Jus Officii”, which means that citizens are only recognized as such, as long as they are working for the Vatican.
With this in mind, the Vatican citizenship is reserved for three kinds of people only:
- Cardinals who live inside the Vatican.
- Vatican diplomats.
- Persons who work for and stay inside the Vatican and have been granted citizenship.
Citizenship by an administrative decision can be given on request to another category of people:
- Spouses and children of the citizens of the Vatican
When you start working for the Vatican, you still retain your country of origin’s citizenship.
What about the Women in Vatican City?
To answer the question why is nobody born in Vatican City, we need to look at the women inside this tiny country. After all, women are the ones who give birth to children.
Of the 799 citizens, women are approximately 40, which is only about 5% of the country’s population.
Notably, the Pope and members of the clergy have been sworn to celibacy, meaning they cannot marry or get children.
So, who are the women in Vatican City? According to World Crunch magazine, in 2013 the majority of the women in the country were wives and daughters of male workers. These were families of guardsmen, electricians, and gardeners.
The situation hasn’t changed much since most women citizens are still related to male workers. Once a woman is married to a Vatican citizen, she automatically becomes a citizen as well.
This citizenship, however, is only valid during their stay, if they change residency, they lose citizenship.
Further, guardsmen only work up to the age of 40. After that, they have to leave, together with their wives and children. What this means is that a continuation of family lines inside Vatican City is unlikely.
Additionally, there are a few women who work for the church as professionals- specifically, these are women who are not related to male workers. For example, Ingrid Stampa, one of the pope’s confidential advisors, lives inside the Vatican.
Ingrid is just one in about a dozen other women who work and reside in the Vatican. There are also female teachers and military officers.
With all these women, children being born is a very likely scenario, except this, happens in hospitals outside Vatican City!
There are no Hospitals in Vatican City
There are no hospitals inside the Vatican. This simple fact makes it unlikely that anyone will end up giving birth within the walls of this country. The country does, however, run a hospital located in Rome, Italy.
Known as Bambino Gesu Hospital, this is a children referral center built on land that belongs to the Vatican. It forms part of the properties known as extraterritorial areas of the Vatican. The hospital is under the laws of the Vatican but not within its borders.
Notably, the hospital does not have a maternity ward- again making it unlikely that a baby can be born in Vatican City.
What if you did give Birth Inside the Vatican?
With the approximately 40 women living in Vatican City, birth within the state is a possibility. You also have to take into account the 5 million tourists and churchgoers who visit the city every year.
Most of these visitors are women and who is to say that none can give birth within the city? From my research on news, there are only two cases in the last 90 years when birth was said to have happened inside the country. Below is as much information as I have gathered.
- On June 19, 1929, a few months after the new country was established a baby boy was born to a servant inside the Vatican. This was reported by the San Jose News newspaper.
The baby was named Pio, after Pope Pius XI (Pio XI in Italian). However, I could not find any info on what became of the boy afterwards.
- In January 2016 a woman was reported to have given birth in the Vatican. The same birth was reported as being ‘near’ the Vatican and not actually ‘inside’. That said, the Vatican offered the mother and baby accommodation for one year.
Currently, if a birth was to occur inside the Vatican, this would be the procedure: The mother and the baby would be taken care of by any medical personnel in the city and later be moved to a hospital in Rome.
Would the baby become a Vatican City citizen? The answer is a big NO. The birth would be considered to have happened in Italy and not the Vatican! It’s as simple as that.
Despite the Vatican City being a sovereign state with its population, none of its residents are born in the country; that much we have established. Everything I have covered above seeks to explain the reasons behind this.
Why is nobody born in Vatican City? It is of no interest to the country for anyone to be born within its borders. And so, no necessary structures have been put in place to facilitate the birth of children.