Bilateral relations Switzerland–Holy See (Vatican City)

Relations between Switzerland and the Holy See are excellent. One important and highly visible link is the Papal Swiss Guard.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

The Holy See is represented in Switzerland by the Apostolic Nuntiature. The Papal Nuntius is also the Pope’s representative to the Catholic church in Switzerland.

Political consultations between the Holy See and Switzerland took place for the first time in May 2013. This exchange of views about issues and themes relevant to each state will be continued. Other subjects that were discussed include interfaith dialogue and the relationship between politics and religion.

Treaty database

History of bilateral relations

The Apostolic Nuntiature in Switzerland is the oldest permanent representation of the Holy See north of the Alps.  It was opened in Lucerne in 1597. The Nuntius was initially accredited to the Catholic cantons and in 1803 for the first time with the Swiss Confederation.   In 1873, the ‘Kulturkampf’ (cultural struggle) led to the severing of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the Holy See, which were not restored until 1920.

The first papal visit to Switzerland was in 1969 when Pope Paul VI visited the United Nations in Geneva. The first visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982 was also to Geneva, where he also visited the UN. In 1984, Pope John Paul II made a five-day pastoral visit to Switzerland  and a third visit in 2004, this time to attend the National Meeting of the Young Catholics of Switzerland, in Bern.

Since 1989 the Federal Council has maintained diplomatic relations with the Holy See through an ambassador on special mission.  In 2004, the Swiss ambassador in Prague was appointed as the regular ambassador to the Holy See. From 2010 to 2014 the Swiss Ambassador to the Holy See resided in Switzerland. The current Swiss Ambassador to the Holy See is accredited to Ljubljana.

The most recent visit by a President of the Swiss Confederation to the Holy See took place on 6 May 2017. On this occasion Doris Leuthard met Pope Francis and visited the Swiss Guard.

The Papal Swiss Guard was founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. The annual swearing-in ceremony of the new Swiss Guards traditionally takes place on the anniversary of the Sack of Rome in 1527 in the presence of high-level Swiss political representatives

Holy See, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr, it)