Vatican City

One of the most interesting places to visit is the very touristy Vatican City. It is of course the location of the Catholic Church and the home of the Pope but religion and politics aside, it is an amazing place to see. From the most beautiful basilica in the world of St. Peters, to the incomparable Sistine Chapel, to the gorgeous St. Peters Square that revelers pack each week to listen to the Pope address his followers, to the ancient history and mystery of the most influential “entity” in the worlds history-the Vatican just has an aura about it that shouldn’t be missed.

Vatican City, officially State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. At approximately 108 acres, it is the smallest independent state in the world. Vatican City is a non-hereditary, elected monarchy that is ruled by the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all clergymen of the Catholic Church. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See and the location of the Apostolic Palace — the Pope’s official residence — and of much of the Roman Curia.

The Pope is the head of state and head of government of Vatican City, functions dependent on his primordial function as the bishop of the Archdiocese of Rome. The term Holy See refers not to the Vatican state but to the Pope’s spiritual and pastoral governance, largely exercised through the Roman Curia. His official title with regard to Vatican City is Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City.

The papacy is a non-hereditary, elective monarchy, chosen by the College of Cardinals. The Pope is also technically an absolute monarch, meaning he has total legislative, executive and judicial power over Vatican City. He is the only absolute monarch in Europe. The Pope is elected for a life term in conclave by cardinals under the age of 80. The current Pope is Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Bavaria, Germany. He is the 265th Pope and was of course elected Pope after a much publicized college vote on April 19, 2005.

I was fortunate enough to see Benedict’s predecessor give mass in the Fall of 1998 in St. Peters. Pope John Paul II was getting old but was still able to deliver his sermon and address the throngs in St. Peters Square afterwards from atop his residence. I have to say that it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Not because it was a great mass or that I could understand anything that was said, but just watching the people in the church being affected by this man as he walked down the aisle and touched people and kids, blessing them. I swear I saw a woman start to glow after he touched her head. It was really interesting and moving stuff. That is the type of power the Pope has, even in this modern day. With over a billion Catholics worldwide, he and the church still have an enormous influence and it’s reach is global.

If you have studied the history of the church at all or the Vatican in general, you will find it very interesting to be in the place where a lot of the events that shaped the history of the world were planned and carried out. Whether you believe a lot of these events were lies and falsifications or that the church has always acted as God intended, it doesn’t matter-it is just fun being there and imagining yourself years ago listening to Pope Pius IX as he defined the dogma of the immaculate conception and organized the first Vatican Council.

I could also go into the beauty of the inside of St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel forever because they are that beautiful but I will save that for another entry. The Vatican is a separate country from Rome and well worth a look once in Rome. I also highly suggest trying to get to see a Papal mass on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or not-that’s not the point, it’s an amazing thing to see in person and seeing the Pope’s influence in person is something that I will never forget.

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  1. A gem of a place to see, Sistine Chapel is my favorite

  2. The influence and reach of the Holy See is indeed global, but very often unrecognized. The most recent deal that was brokered by the Vatican was the agreement to normalize relations between the USA and Cuba.

    Canada provided private meeting sites for US and Cuban officials to hammer out details, the Vatican ambassadors and the Pope where the push and impetus to get the parties together. A great diplomatic coup for all involved and we hope, a chance for every Cuban to have a more normal life.

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