I was reading about the government for the Holy See and found out that French is used as a diplomatic language for the nation. This seems rather odd to me since the nation is closest to Italy (to the point where Italian is one of its working languages) and I am pretty sure Italian is a language that would be acceptable when speaking with local politicians and the European Union. Is there any specific reason why France is the diplomatic language for the nation of the Catholic Church like a special diplomatic/economic relationship forged with France or something?


Tradition, almost certainly.

First, today's Italy didn't really exist until the latter half of the 19th century. The Kingdom of Naples, for example, existed independently until 1812. So until the late 1800s, there was really no one "Italy" for the Holy See to have diplomatic relations with.

Second, French was THE language of diplomacy until very recently. Per Wikipedia:

During the 17th century, French replaced Latin as the most important language of diplomacy and international relations (lingua franca). It retained this role until approximately the middle of the 20th century, when it was replaced by English as the United States became the dominant global power following the Second World War. Stanley Meisler of the Los Angeles Times said that the fact that the Treaty of Versailles was written in English as well as French was the "first diplomatic blow" against the language.

Some history can be found at Why Is French Considered the Language of Diplomacy?:


The Beginnings of the Language of Diplomacy

The French language was beginning to come into its own by the 13th century, becoming more widely spoken throughout Europe. It was considered sophisticated and associated with high society, and many people chose to learn it to obtain greater wealth and higher social status.

By the middle of the 14th century, French became the most spoken language in Europe, already being used for diplomatic affairs between several countries.


Third, there is in fact a substantial historical connection between the Holy See and France. For a while, the Papacy was actually in France:

The Avignon Papacy, also known as the Babylonian Captivity, was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven successive popes resided in Avignon (then in the Kingdom of Arles, part of the Holy Roman Empire, now in France) rather than in Rome. ...


A total of seven popes reigned at Avignon, all French, and all under the influence of the French Crown. ...

  • 1
    Missing point: Due to the Head of the Holy See being an elected position, and that Cardinals can come from anywhere, there's no guarantee whatsoever that new Cardinals can speak a word of Italian when they first arrive in Rome. So the Vatican's geographic location has little importance in practice. It could be in the South Pole for all we care and they'd still be head of the Catholic Church and use French as their diplomatic language. Feb 1 '20 at 21:18
  • 2
    @DenisdeBernardy Italians have pretty much dominated the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church for most of its history. Every single Pope from 1523 until John Paul II in 1978 was Italian. Note also these words on the College of Cardinals wiki page: "By the end of the 14th century, the practice of solely Italian cardinals had ceased." Even well into the 20th century, the majority of Cardinals were Italian.
    – Just Me
    Feb 2 '20 at 15:18
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    (cont) Per Wikipedia: "There have been 196 popes from Italy, 16 from France, 15 Greeks (of whom 3 born in Greece), 8 from Germany, 6 from Syria, 3 from Africa, 3 from Iudaea (Israel), 2 from Portugal, 2 from Spain, and one each from: England (Adrian IV); the Netherlands (Adrian VI); Poland (John Paul II); and most recently, Argentina (Francis)."
    – Just Me
    Feb 2 '20 at 15:19

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