Action Alert!

Is the Vatican a walled city? Yes and No.

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 19, 2016

OK, let’s set the record straight.

First Pope Francis said that the urge to build walls rather than bridges “is not Christian.” Next Donald Trump shot back that the Vatican is “completely surrounded by walls.” Then the New York Times, CNN, and other outlets “helpfully” assured readers that the Vatican isn’t really a walled city.

Actually it is and it isn’t.

When he said that the Vatican is “completely surrounded” by walls, Trump was wrong. A large swath of Vatican property—St. Peter’s Square—is ordinarily wide open to anyone who wants to walk in, through, or around it. You can also walk into the Vatican basilica (once you go through security) or the Vatican Museums (once you buy a ticket) during regular daytime hours.

However, the remainder of the Vatican—the offices, the gardens, the palaces—are walled off, with very restricted public access. The gates are manned by Swiss Guards, who will stop any tourist seeking to wander inside.

The walls of the Vatican do what walls are intended to do: protect the people inside from outside intruders. Yes, there are parts of the Vatican to which the public has ready access. But Vatican officials decide which parts you can visit, and when. And while you’re allowed to enter St. Peter’s Square whenever you like, you’re not allowed to stay.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: chady - May. 07, 2016 11:32 AM ET USA

    Archbishop Vincent Nichols says that the forthcoming EU Referendum in the UK is not solely about the issue of economics. Catholic politicians Adenauer, Gaspari, Schuman and Monnet were driving forces behind the establishment of the EU. However atheism in Europe is strong. Bill Cash Catholic MP in 1994 raised concerns about eugenics policies ie. abortion and euthanasia. EU development of stem cell research? EU's 'nudge' to Cameron to bring same sex unions to UK - for which he had no mandate?

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - May. 06, 2016 8:45 PM ET USA

    My study group is halfway through Ryan Anderson's book, and I had begun to have those very misgivings you mention. It's like advancing on your enemy's right and left flanks, but telling the troops in your center to go home.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 06, 2016 5:54 PM ET USA

    Who is willing to risk their job by speaking publicly about the immorality of acts contrary to the 6th Commandment? A fire chief last year and a public health official this year both lost their jobs in Georgia due to public remarks contrary to the consensus position on the 6th Commandment, the consensus opinion being that positive civil law exists to protect a person's license to sin.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - May. 06, 2016 5:19 PM ET USA

    Considering Muslims, one day, Europeans will take a stand and say, "No! Europe and what it means is ours. Come no further". They will be forced to ask themselves, "What am I willing to fight for?" It wont be the effeminate EU or a Pope that talks about "dialogue" who answers. It will be a great Frenchman, a German, a Spaniard, an Italian, a Belgian, a Dutchman when he realizes they can't do it alone. They will fight as in Spain and at Lepanto and Vienna. Or maybe they wont.