Vatican City: City of Faith
Vatican Cityis the head of the Catholic Church and home to the Pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The land has been through diversity from political turmoil caused by the coup in the Middle Age to the doubt and shaking of faith in the modern world. Nevertheless, this independent State is still the centre of the Roman Catholic Faith where the precious and unique arts and sciences are embraced.
For more than 60 years that Vatican City was permanently closed. Several Popes, one after another, had to stay behind a closed Vatican wall in Rome, Italy, after having ruled the peninsula over a thousand years under the name “Papal State.”
The great power of the Church that reigned over kingdoms in Europe was unfavorable to their rulers so they opposed and tried to lessen the power of faith by reoccupying the land. Until the middle of the 19th century, most of the Pope’s territories were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. In 1870, the area of the Vatican City was limited to some parts of the city of Rome, which led to the declaration of Pope Pius IX, the Head of the Church at that time, to separate the Vatican from the world. The separation continued until the era of National Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini, the Prime Minister at that time; he reestablished Vatican City as an independent State and granted sovereignty to the territory of the Vatican after the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929. He also facilitated the Pope to continue his mission as the head of the Catholics all over the world.
Having returned to the world’s community, Administrations and Central Offices of Vatican City have to manage more than 5 million tourists who come to visit and see the beauty of Renaissance work of art that show inspiration of faith from Michelangelo, Rafael, and other artists in Vatican museum, St. Peter Cathedral, and the Apostolic Library of the Vatican.The Vatican City has to manage other specific tasks, especially maintaining its financial status and the holy image of the 128-acre- Independent State.
In terms of living condition and factors that move this city of faith, Vatican City State comprises more than 800 inhabitants. The city itself has been fully equipped with public utility: its own banking system and currency called ‘Vatican Lira’, which is legal tender throughout Italy, duty-free shops, train transportation, postal service and security systems—over 100 security corps, the so-called ‘Swiss guards’, selected from the Swiss military, who still wear traditional uniforms designed by Michael Angelo. There are also university and higher education administrations, academic institutions, and a publisher named ‘The Vatican Polyglot Press’ to provide publications and has issued the daily newspaper ‘L'Osservatore Romano’since 1861. In addition, the Vatican City State established its radio station that has been broadcasting in more than 30 languages since 1931. At present, the Vatican has 3 radio stations, one TV station and a website to propagate messages and missions of the Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, the investment in the media and the visit to propagate religion for the Pope and the Sacred College of Cardinals, including expenses in maintaining public property, cost a lot of money. Since they are considered religious activities, they cannot commercially bring income. The Vatican, therefore, has constantly faced financial problems as well as any other large company. Vatican City is seen as wealthy because of the possession of priceless works of art and properties in the Holy See, including three main sources of income: visitor entrance fees, sales of stamps, and donations. Nonetheless, compared to its expenses, the city budget during the early 1980s was far from being ‘balanced’. At that time, the Vatican Bank was also involved in a major financial scandal, concerning the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano Bank, which worsened its financial and transparency image. In order to rebuild the good image and create understanding of Vatican’s financial status, in 1981 Pope John Paul II ordered to have an annual financial report published.
However, the operation and performance of the Vatican Back is still in a shroud of secret. For instance, the investigation of the Vatican Bank CEO by Italy government brought about questions regarding transparency, as stated inthe introduction of Dr. Monsenor Rafael Rodriguez Guillen's book, entitled ‘The Vatican's Finances’ that ‘The Vatican has so far been less than totally frank. … open or permitted an independent audit of her finances, which are only known unto this day by the scandals and abuses of power wherein her personages have been involved, and the money launders of their banks.’
The Vatican issued several statements explaining and denying all accusation, but doubt cannot be easily erased unless evidences are proved. In order to maintain the holy and respectful status, Pope Benedict XVI, approved the promulgation of a law laundering and counterfeiting and signed an apostolic letter, announcing the establishment of the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria (Financial Information Authority), which is an autonomous and independent body with the specific task of checking and controlling financial transactions of all the entities and institutions dependant on Holy See. Its duty included monitoring the Vatican Bank and determining penalty. The most serious sentence, according to the law, is imprisonment. These new Laws are part of the efforts to eliminate corruption, countering laundering of money and the financing of terrorism. The law came into force on 1 April 2011.
Challenges in the modern world
In order to be fit in the modern world, the Vatican has to handle the rapid changes that directly affected the City. One is the financial crisis that lowered the income from tourism and donations and put the Vatican’s account in the red for three consecutive years from 2007 to 2009. Although the situation got better in 2010 when the balance is back in the black, with the surplus of 21 million Euro (roughly 1,050 million Baht)—income of 255.8 million Euro (roughly12,790 million Baht) and outcome of234.8 million Euro (roughly11,740 million Baht) due to the increasing number of tourists and the improving of financial crisis, the Vatican city could not be inattentive. The Vatican later tried to tackle the problem at its root. In his encyclical, Pope Benedict XVIhad called for new world economic order and denounced a profit-at-all-cost mentality. The proposal caused criticism that the Church supported anti-capitalism movement, but the Holy See confirmed the intention to be impartial in offering guidance for solving the problem.
Technological advancement is another factor that pressures the Vatican to adjust and be more flexible with the situation. For instance, the Vatican’s approval for a famous "Confession" applicationbut they also made a remark that the most effective way of confession is the face-to-face one.
The global change and the involvement in the world affairs can affect the traditional beliefs and people’s faith towards the Vatican. The Holy See has to be more deregulated, less obscure, and more approachable in order to keep the Vatican in the world’s attention. Meantime it has to maintain its mystery and the spirit of God as a symbol of faith to thousand millions of Catholics and as a secretive city to visitors who are interested in the great power of the Catholic Church that has lived on till today.
Unlocking the secrets of the past
The greatness of the Church has influenced the world politics. In the Vatican Secret Archives, which is an underground storage adjacent to the Vatican Library, contained an enormous volumes of important, both confidential and not confidential, document. The archives ranged from scroll to ancient parchments aged more than a thousand year. They are important historical evidences that reveal secrets or confirm several of modern day’s hypotheses.
The collector’s edition, made only 33 copies. 4,950 Euros
The Vatican Secret Archives is normally closed to outsiders. Only on a rare occasion, it permitted researchers to access. However, in 2009 it allowed 105 pieces of document to be published in a book called The Vatican Secret Archives. The book contained a number of fascinating treasures such as the trial of Galileo Galilei, a private letter from Michelangelo to the Pope in 1550 requesting his three-month-unpaid wages. In his letter, he reproached that the Pope at that time was unfaithful to him by not paying for his painting on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Some document revealed the relationship between the Catholic Church and leaders of other kingdoms oversea, for example, a 13th-century letter from Guyuk, a grandson of Ghengis Khan from Mongol Kingdoms to Pope Innocent IV. In the letter, the Mongol emperor commanded the Pope and his Kings in tow to travel to Central Asia to "pay service and homage to us" as an act of "submission". Otherwise, it warned "you shall be our enemy." Other documents included a letter from Pius X to Hitler in 1934 and one received by his controversial successor, Pius XII, from Japan’s Emperor Hirohito
Did you know?
- Saint Peter's Cathedralis the world’s largest church which took 150 years, under the supervision of 20 Popes, to finish. The total cost of the construction is over 300 million US dollars.
- There is no citizen with Vatican nationality. They can only have Vatican citizenship, which can be obtained only when working as officers or diplomatic personnel. Because of their occupation, they mostly live in different countries around the world. The citizenship is also allowed for their wives and children under 25 years of age.
- The Vatican Bank is located inside Vatican City and is the only branch in the world. The bank is run by a professional bank CEO who quarterly reports the result to five cardinals who perform a committee board. In addition, there is no shareholder; the surplus is used for religious and charitable purposes. It is estimated that the total asset hold by Vatican Bank is 3,760 million Euros (approximately 150,400 million Baht).
- Vatican Cityhas the highest crime rate per population due to over 5 million visitors each year, resulted in a number of robbery and petty theft. The number of arrested criminals is more than 800, while the total population in Vatican City is only around 800.
- Vatican City hold studies about extraterrestrial beings. It hosts a conference for Space Physics, physicists, and related experts on astrobiology or extraterrestrial study in order to find answers about origin of life. This is not considered against religious belief because the discovering might be one of the God’s creations.
- Office of the Apostolic See Pontifical Academies within the Holy See was established in 1603. At present,there are approximately 80 leading scientists working on the scientific research for the Catholic Church. The current outstanding research contributions are bioethics, global warming, and issues about embryo. The recent remarkable change within the academies is the appointment of Mr. Werner Arber, 81, a Swiss microbiologist, a director of the academies. He is the first Protestant who takes this position.
 The donation came from 1) the collection ofPeter’s Pence (payment made more or less voluntarily to the Roman Catholic Church) which can be used by the Pope in charity and emergency work,and 2) the donations collected from the churches around the world to support the work of Vatican.
- 28 march 2012
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