The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This artifact was featured on the fourth episode of the series, Popes of the 19th & 18th Centuries. A DVD of the series is available from EWTN.
Here is Father’s commentary:
Passports are items that have ink stamps on them. Every country issues its own passports to indicate that somebody belongs to that particular country and is in good standing there and, therefore, able to travel to other countries as well. And the Papal States were no different. The Papal States as a nation, up until 1870, had their own passports, and this item is a passport from the time of Pope Gregory XVI with a lot of different ink stamps on it.
What is really interesting about this item is that it was issued to his successor’s nephew: that is, to Pope Pius IX’s nephew. So it really is a unique item associated with two popes and just happens to have been issued to the future Pope’s nephew.
Passports are a difficult item to obtain because a lot of auction houses will not actually sell passports because they are associated with someone’s identity.
Vatican City State issues passports today. Everyone who is made Cardinal is issued a passport as a citizen of the Papal State to make it easier for him or her to travel around Italy and Europe.