Women account for approximately 5.5% of the citizenry of Vatican City. According to the Herald Sun in March 2011, there were only 32 females out of 572 citizens issued with Vatican passports. One of them was a nun.[1] In 2013, Worldcrunch reported that there were around 30 women who were citizens of Vatican City, including two South American women, two Poles, and three from Switzerland. The majority of Vatican women at the time were from Italy.[2]

Female residents

Among the women who lived in Vatican City was one of the daughters of an electrician, who later got married and "lost her right to live" in the city. Another woman who lives in Vatican City was Magdalena Wolińska-Riedi, who is a Polish translator and wife of one of the Swiss Guards.[2]

Vatican City citizens

Among the women who have citizenship in Vatican City, there is one officer in the military, two teachers (one teaches in high school, the other teaches in kindergarten), and one academic. Women obtain Vatican City citizenship by marriage (as a baptized Catholic) to their husbands; however such citizenship "lasts only for the duration of their stay" in Vatican City.[2]

Value of women

In the past, women were not allowed to open a bank account in Vatican City, but, during the leadership of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the value of women in the city was highlighted. One of Pope Benedict XVI's assistant editors and confidential adviser was a woman, Ingrid Stampa.[2] On April 21, 2013, The Telegraph reported that Pope Francis will be appointing "more women to key Vatican" positions. In May 2019, Francis appointed three women as consultors to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment, marking a historic first for the Church.[3] In addition to this, L'Osservatore Romano – the daily newspaper in Vatican City – is now publishing supplementary pages that address women's issues.[4] Women are not allowed to be ordained to the presbyterate or episcopate, though a commission is currently studying the question of whether women can serve as un-ordained deacons.


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on July 10, 2009.

Women (and men) visiting St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican Museums in Vatican City are expected to wear appropriate attire. Low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts and hats (for men, indoors) are not allowed. Women may or may not wear the traditional "black hat or veil". Dress code for Papal audiences is somewhat more formal.[5][6] Women cannot wear clothing that does not cover the shoulders and the knees.[2]

Protocol for private and official audiences with the Pope says that ladies should wear a black dress, without a neckline, and cover their heads with a veil, also black; no large handbags or flashy jewellery; yes to a string of pearls. It is also allowed to meet the Pope wearing typical national or regional costumes, but red is banned (reserved for cardinals' robes) and purple for its liturgical significance (colour of penance), while the "privilege of white" is only for Catholic queens. Raisa Gorbacheva's visit in 1989 was famous: she presented herself to the Pope in a red dress and without a veil.

Voting rights

The Pope, who serves as the head of state, is elected by the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church. The College is part of the Holy See, which forms a separate sovereign entity from Vatican City. Cardinals in the Catholic Church are required to be male, with voting Cardinals usually Bishops, and only men are eligible to be elected Pope. With that being said, however, the cardinalate is a privilege and office bestowed by the Pope; it is not a separate, fourth degree of Holy Orders, along with deacon, priest, and Bishop, though it ranks above them, so theoretically, the laws could be amended to allow for women to be Cardinals.


Vatican City is one of two sovereign states that do not allow divorce, the other being the Philippines (see Divorce in the Philippines).


See also: Abortion and the Catholic Church

The law of Vatican City recognizes the canon law of the Catholic Church as its primary source of law and primary reference for legal interpretation, and it adopts several Italian laws for practical purposes, such as the Italian penal code in force in 1929 with local modifications.[7] Canon 1397 §2 and articles 381 to 385 of the penal code both prohibit abortion without explicitly mentioning any exception, but article 49 of the penal code lists the principle of necessity to save one's life, which removes punishment for any action that would otherwise be a crime.[8][9] The authors of the Italian penal code considered that this article allowed abortion to save the woman's life,[10][11] but the Church's interpretation of the canon law is more restrictive, allowing only indirect abortion under the principle of double effect, such as treatment for an ectopic pregnancy or cancer. In these cases the procedure is aimed only at preserving the woman's life, and the death of the fetus, although foreseen, is not willed either as an end or as a means for obtaining the intended effect.[12][13]

Donne in Vaticano

In September 2016, Vatican authorities approved the creation of Donne in Vaticano, the first women-only association of the Vatican. The members of the association are journalists, theologians, and economists.[14][15] It is led by founding president Tracey McClure.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Only 32 women in Vatican City, Herald Sun, March 02, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mrowińska, Alina. Behind The Walls: What it's Like to Live Inside The Vatican, For a Woman, Gazeta Wyborcza/Worldcrunch, February 26, 2013.
  3. ^ White, Christopher (October 30, 2019). "Pope Francis using synods to 'build consensus' in Church, participant says". cruxnow.com. Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  4. ^ Pope Francis 'to appoint more women to key Vatican posts', The Telegraph, April 21, 2013
  5. ^ Vatican Museums - useful information for visitors, Vatican museums and churches visitor information, museivaticani.va
  6. ^ "Vatican City Dress Code". Buzzle. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017.
  7. ^ Law on the sources of law, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Supplement for the laws and provisions of Vatican City State, 1 October 2008 (in Italian).
  8. ^ Offences against human life, dignity and freedom, Code of Cannon Law, Holy See.
  9. ^ Penal code for the Kingdom of Italy, 1889, University of Brescia College of Law (in Italian).
  10. ^ Report to His Majesty the King from the Minister Keeper of the Seals (Zanardelli) at the hearing of 30 June 1889 for the approval of the final text of the penal code, pp. 145–146. "On the agreed proposal of the parliamentary commissions, the provision that was read in the bill, according to which it was declared 'not punishable the doctor or surgeon, when he justifies having acted in order to save the woman's life, endangered by the pregnancy or by childbirth', was deleted"; "The vote expressed in agreement in parliament led me to the aforesaid deletion, not to exclude the application of the concept that was expressed there, but because it was superfluous and inappropriate to declare it, providing if needed article 49 number 3, the application of which would be only, and without reason, restricted." (in Italian)
  11. ^ Criminal abortion in the Italian penal code, Pasquale Tuozzi, Filippo Serafini Legal Archive, 1902, vol. 10, no. 3, p. 29. "However, if you want to search for a provision in our code that covers the surgeon, in addition to article 45, in which the aforesaid reason is rooted, there is also number 3 of article 49, where it is declared the nonresponsibility of one who acts compelled by the need to save himself or others from a serious and imminent danger to the person, to which he did not voluntarily give cause, and which he could not otherwise avoid. Well, these extremes of the state of necessity all apply in the case of the surgeon, who, put in the harsh condition, not created by him, extinguishes an imperfect and perhaps uncertain existence, to save a certain and real existence, which is that of the woman in childbirth." (in Italian)
  12. ^ Abortion and the Catholic Church, Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia, American Life League.
  13. ^ Under Vatican ruling, abortion triggers automatic excommunication, National Catholic Reporter, 17 January 2003.
  14. ^ "E' nata la prima Associazione di donne in Vaticano" (in Italian). Radio Vaticana. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Donne in Vaticano, la 1ère association féminine au Vatican" (in French). Buzz Europa. 14 May 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  16. ^ San Martín, Inés (2016-12-08). "Women working in the Vatican create their own association". Crux. Retrieved 2021-04-21.