The Lateran Treaties of 1929 and the subsequent agreements between the Holy See and the Italian state, with particular reference to the Notes that were exchanged in 1945, decreed that the area and the buildings that make up the complex of St Paul Outside the Walls, notably the basilica and the abbey, belong to the Holy See and enjoy a specific juridical status, according to the norms of international law.
According to the existing legislation, the Pope exercises full authority over the entire extra-territorial complex of St Paul Outside the Walls.
With his Motu Proprio of May 31st 2005 entitled L’antica e venerabile Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura (The ancient and venerable Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls), the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI wished to clarify and further define the principle aspects which characterise the pastoral and administrative profile of that extra-territorial complex.
Through that same Motu Proprio, the Pope confirmed the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls as a canonical entity with a public juridical personality and established that, like the other three Major Basilicas, it should be placed in the charge of an archpriest named by the Roman pontiff.
The archpriest is expected to oversee the whole extra-territorial complex, coordinating the activities and promoting the goals of its various administrations, with the exception of that which falls under the competency of the abbot within the abbey that has housed a community of Benedictine monks for the past thirteen centuries.
The Pope also entrusted the archpriest with a vicar for pastoral work in the person of the abbot of St Paul’s Benedictine Abbey, as well as an administrative director.