The Catholic Church and International Relations

Oxford Handbooks Online, April 2016

33 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2015 Last revised: 18 Sep 2017

Jodok Troy

University of Innsbruck; Stanford University

Date Written: June 7, 2014


The Catholic Church is the oldest and largest trans-governmental organization in the world and particular Pope Francis’ reign reveal some interesting puzzles for International Relations. Nevertheless, in social sciences it remains an underestimated and unexplored actor. As in terms of social theory, particularly in International Relations, it is hard to grasp “the” Church (e.g. body of believers, norm entrepreneur, state of the Vatican City, Holy See etc.) This article places the Catholic Church and its activities in international politics in a theoretical framework of International Relations. In doing so, it puts forward observations that help students of world politics understand and, consequently, explain this multifaceted actor beyond a mere description. Displaying first the different levels of analysis leads to approaching the Catholic Church from different theoretical angles. In doing so, the article provides an understanding of the Church on the individual (its members and their agency), unit (the institution), and international level (the Holy See participating in the international system and society).

Keywords: Catholic Church, International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Realism, English School

Suggested Citation

Troy, Jodok, The Catholic Church and International Relations (June 7, 2014). Oxford Handbooks Online, April 2016. Available at SSRN:

Jodok Troy (Contact Author)

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universitätsstraße 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
+43(0)512.507.2849 (Fax)


Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States


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