Holy SeeOften the term Holy See is defined as the office or jurisdiction of the Pope. It may also be defined as the head of the Roman Catholic church, including the Pope. By this latter definition, the Holy See continues to exist when the papacy is vacant after the death or resignation of the Pope. During such vacancies the Catholic Church and the Vatican City are governed oligarchically by the College of Cardinals. The Holy See is recognized as having legal personality under international law.
The Holy See is legally distinguishable from the Vatican City, which is a territory over which the Holy See has sovereignty: some treaties the Holy See is a party to in itself, other treaties it is a party to in respect of the Vatican City.
However, the foreign embassies are credited to the Holy See and not to the Vatican State.
Generally, the Holy See as a party to a treaty reflects the interests of the Roman Catholic church, while Vatican City is generally only party to treaties which are not of general significance, e.g., treaties regarding co-operation with Italy.