Size is not a criterion in our definition of what constitutes a country. A country need only be an independent state, with distinct territorial boundaries, and its own government. This is a true blessing for Vatican City, as, weighing in at a mere 0.17 miles, it holds the title of being the smallest country in the world.
Prior to 1870, however, political control by papal governments in central Italy spanned approximately 16.000 square miles. In 1870, the Kingdom of Italy, in a shift of political power, established Rome as the national capital of Italy, wrested political power from the papal governments, and absorbed the so-called "Papal States" into its territory.
A 1929 Agreement hammered out by the Italian government and the Pope, established Vatican City as a country... all 0.17 square miles of it! Gradually the country has gained recognition as such, by establishing diplomatic ties with other countries, and by receiving dignitaries from other nations.
Vatican City is the official seat of the Catholic Church, and its head, the Pope, rules through a civil governor. As with any other country, this miniature country sports its own flag, coins its own coins, runs its own postal, transportation, telephone systems, and radio broadcasting station. Vatican City is all grown up.
This pint-size powerhouse of a country primarily supports itself through contributions from Catholics around the world, and through tourism. Safely ensconced within Vatican City lie some of the worlds' most precious of treasures; the Gardens, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Palace, which houses the Vatican Library, and...the Pope himself.
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