Bilateral relations Switzerland–Holy See (Vatican City)

Bilateral relations between Switzerland and the Holy See are close and excellent, as evidenced by the frequent exchanges and the various areas of cooperation between the two states.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

The two states share common foreign policy values such as the promotion of peace, combating the death penalty, and sustainable development, all of which are priorities of the Federal Council's foreign policy strategy. Additionally, the Holy See and Switzerland have permanent diplomatic representations on each other's territories, fostering closer dialogue on key bilateral issues. 

List of international treaties signed between Switzerland and the Holy See

Cooperation on education

The Vatican is home to several academic institutions of world renown. The Holy See's academic community maintains strong connections with the four Swiss higher education institutions that offer academic degrees in theology: the universities of Fribourg, Lugano, Lucerne and Chur.   

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships

Researchers can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. 

Collaboration on peacekeeping and human rights

Switzerland and the Vatican work together on peacekeeping operations and the protection of human rights, in line with their shared foreign policy objectives.  

Cultural exchanges

The Swiss embassy supports the organisation of cultural events within its available resources, collaborating with institutions in the Holy See and Switzerland. 

Swiss nationals in the Vatican

Vatican City State has a population of around 250, with the largest group of foreign nationals being the approximately 130 Swiss guards stationed within its walls. The Pontifical Swiss Guard, a small armed force, has protected the pope and his residence since 1506.

Swiss Guard

History of bilateral relations

Switzerland and the Holy See share a rich history of relations spanning centuries. Since 1506, the Pontifical Swiss Guard has been stationed at the Vatican, tasked with safeguarding the security of the Holy Father and his residence. The first Apostolic Nunciature in Switzerland was opened in 1586 in Lucerne. This was the second diplomatic mission to be established in Switzerland. Diplomatic relations were broken off in 1873 due to disagreements over the Kulturkampf, a conflict between the government and the Catholic Church over control of education and other matters related to secularisation. The two states' shared commitment to humanitarian action for the wounded during the First World War paved the way for the resumption of diplomatic relations in 1920. The first official visit of a pontiff to Switzerland took place in 1969 when Pope Paul VI travelled to Switzerland at the invitation of the World Council of Churches. His successors also visited Switzerland, for World Youth Day: John Paul II in 1982, 1984, and 2004, and Francis in 2018. In 1991, Switzerland appointed an ambassador to serve as special envoy to the Holy See, and in 2004, it appointed an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. In October 2021, the Swiss government decided to open the first permanent Swiss embassy to the Holy See. It was officially inaugurated by the President of the Confederation Ignazio Cassis on 6 May 2022. 

Switzerland–Vatican: a shared history with many chapters

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

Last update 24.03.2023

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