India has usually accredited its embassy at Bern, Switzerland to the Holy See.
But recently, India's ambassador to Austria was given charge of being the ambassador to the Holy See.

However, doesn't it make sense to have the embassy in Rome accredited to the Holy See?
Vatican is, after all, much closer to Rome than to Bern or Vienna. Italy's relations with the Holy See have also been quite peaceful for a long time.

Why is that not the case then? Why is the embassy in Bern or Vienna better for relations with the Holy See?

Here is the list of diplomatic missions to the Holy See.

  • 1
    I'd no idea that was so - and am intrigued to find out the reason. But in 2012 there was a serious breakdown in relations between India and Italy over the Enrica Lexie case, and I think diplomatic relations were broken off. I am wondering if it has something to do with that i.e. that India gave first its Swiss office responsibility for the Vatican and then its Austrian. Though India undoubtedly has normal relations with Italy now.
    – WS2
    Nov 6, 2022 at 21:35
  • 1
    @WS2 That is true but even before the Enrica Lexie case, Indian embassy in Bern handled the holy see relations. And now even though the relations are normal, it is the Austrian embassy in charge and not the Italian.
    – whoisit
    Nov 6, 2022 at 21:59
  • my guess would be simply that Rome (being one of the big industrial European nations) is a big job for an ambassador, whereas Switzerland (being smaller, and neutral - so not involved in conflicts) is a smaller and simpler job, so its easy to tag the Holy See job to the Switzerland job. Also the Holy See has ambassadors in Geneva connected to the UN, so contacts are easily made... this is, of course, specualtion.
    – James K
    Nov 6, 2022 at 22:23
  • 1
    @whoisit Thanks for that - what an interesting assortment of locations. Seems like small former colonies of countries like Britain (e.g Barbados, Fiji) and France (Chad, Madagascar) find it more convenient to operate through London or Paris - perhaps sharing the facilities of the larger entity. But one would have thought India was big enough to go its own way. India is also a country with a very large Catholic population.
    – WS2
    Nov 7, 2022 at 6:41
  • 2
    Another guess (as good as anyone's else): Italy and the Vatican might have more possible conflicting issues due to the Vatican's location, so sending the same ambassador to both countries might mean an increased risk of him finding himself in the middle of a conflict India is not interested in.
    – SJuan76
    Nov 7, 2022 at 7:25

1 Answer 1


There is a very simple reason here: they're not allowed to, and it's not specific to India. From Wikipedia:

Of the diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See, 89 are situated in Rome, although those countries, if they also have an embassy to Italy, then have two embassies in the same city, since, by agreement between the Holy See and Italy, the same person cannot at the same time be accredited to both. The United Kingdom recently housed its embassy to the Holy See in the same building as its embassy to the Italian Republic, a move that led to a diplomatic protest from the Holy See. An ambassador accredited to a country other than Italy can be accredited also to the Holy See. For example, the embassy of India, located in Bern, to Switzerland and Liechtenstein is also accredited to the Holy See while the Holy See maintains an Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi.

Wikipedia does not cite this statement, but this article confirms it and gives the origin as the Lateran Treaty, plus a general reasoning for it:

The ban on one person doubling as ambassador to Italy and the Holy See dates to the Lateran Treaty, and it’s designed to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See.

I suspect the idea there was that without such a prohibition, most places would just treat the Vatican as an afterthought to their relationship with Italy.

The list gives "embassies in Rome", but these will be specifically embassies to the Holy See which are located in Rome - you can't physically fit any embassies within the Vatican - rather than the embassy to Italy doing double service.

  • But is there any reason why India decided to place their accredited embassy in Bern, rather than open a second embassy in Rome like many other countries?
    – CDJB
    Nov 7, 2022 at 16:50
  • 2
    @CDJB agree with whoisit that it's definitely cheaper to share the role with another embassy, which is always a factor for everyone. As to why Vienna not Bern, it could be subtle diplomacy or it could just be some completely arbitrary practical reason - the Vienna embassy has a bit more capacity to do the extra work, or something like that Nov 7, 2022 at 16:59
  • @Andrewisgone: Another possibility is that India chooses whichever person they think would make the best ambassador to the Vatican, regardless of what other ambassadorship that person may happen to hold at the time (within reason - it would probably be a bad idea to select the ambassador to Australia as your ambassador to the Vatican, because the time zones would be a bit of a problem).
    – Kevin
    Jan 18 at 0:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .