Monday, June 24, 2013

What is the Vatican?

What is the Vatican?
The Vatican (Vaticano), or Vatican City State is a sovereign city-state that belongs to the Holy See (Sancta Sedes). The Vatican is situated in a walled enclave inside the city of Rome. The Vatican has a population of less than 1000 and is approximately 0.44 square kilometers, (about 110 acres).Vatican City is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world. The Vatican has its own national Anthem and Flag. The currency in the Vatican is the Euro, although it isn't a member of the European Union. The Vatican Issues its own special Vatican coins. The Vatican also has its own postal service. In the Vatican post office you can buy Vatican Stamps and send postcards or letters to family and friends.

The Vatican has generally been the residence of the Pope since 1337. The Pope's residence is also known as the Apostolic Palace and it is located North-East of the St. Peter's basilica. The Pontifical Swiss Guard is in charge of the security of the Vatican and the Pope's personal safety. The Pontifical Swiss Guard has been filling this duty since the 16th century.The entire Vatican State is acknowledged as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984. The main tourist attractions in the Vatican are: St. Peter's basilica, St. Peter's Square, The Vatican Museums and the Vatican gardens. The entrance to the Basilica and Square are free of charge. Please note that visitors are asked to dress appropriately when entering the church.
The Vatican's Legal Standing
On February 11th 1929, Vatican City State was established by the signing of the Lateran Treaties between the state of Italy and the Holy See. Its status as a sovereign State is universally recognized and is anchored in International law. Due to the small size of Vatican City, some of its Departments and offices are located in several buildings in Rome. These buildings enjoy the same status as embassies and foreign diplomatic missions according to the Lateran Treaty.

Vatican Geography and Vatican History
Vatican City lies beyond the right bank of the Tiber River, its on part of the ancient Montes Vaticani (the Vatican Mount) and where the Vatican Fields used to be .The Name "Vatican" originated from the name of this hill. The Vatican was protected from being secluded from the rest of the city by being included within the walls of Pope Leo IV (847–55), and later on fortified further by Popes Paul III , Pius IV and Urban VIII. There are five entrances to Vatican City; Many Visitors start their Vatican tour at St Peter's square. The best way to get to the Vatican from Rome's historical center is through Ponte St. Angelo. The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano.

The Notorious Roman Emperor Caligula (37-41AD) built a circus at the area of the current Vatican. St Peter the apostle was buried in a necropolis to the north of the circus. Traditionally it is said that The See of Rome was founded by Saint Peter who first held the position of the Bishop of Rome (Pope).Between the years 324 and 326 AD, the Emperor Constantine built a basilica on top of St. Peter's grave. It was replaced by the present St. Peter's Basilica between the 16th and 17th centuries. And was designed and decorated by Renaissance and baroque geniuses such as Raphael, Bramante, Bernini Michelangelo, and Maderna. St. Peter's basilica is the largest religious building in the world.
The First Pope
There have been many discussions regarding the question of who was the first Pope of the Catholic Church?

The majority of discussions regarding this question refer to Saint Peter, with some saying that he was the first Roman Catholic Church Pope, while others oppose that idea. However, according to the Catholic Church, there is no doubt that Peter was first Pope. Even on the list of popes, Saint Peter heads the list, appearing as the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

The bible is normally interpreted differently by different people, but the Catholic Church has remained adament regarding its strong belief that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and the head of the entire Catholic Church. Peter was Andrew’s brother (the sons of John); they were both fishermen. It was Andrew (Peter’s brother) who introduced him to Jesus Christ, and once they retired from fishing and became disciples of Jesus, they were referred to as “fishers of men”. Peter means “rock”, and his story is extensively discussed in the bible’s New Testament.

There are several scriptures that have been quoted in the bible, serving as proof that Peter was given the authority to be the leader of Catholic Church, by Jesus himself. The first scripture is from John 21: 15-17 which says: “Feed my lambs, feed my lambs, feed my sheep”. According to the Catholics, this was the message that Jesus gave to Peter, giving him the superintendency of all His sheep; sheep being the followers of His Church. Another message appears in the book of Mathew 16:17-20 which says, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” These two scriptures have formed the basis of the fact that indeed Saint Peter was the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

Even today, there are structures that were built in the Vatican, Rome, in honor of Saint Peter as the first Pope of Rome. For instance, there are the St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica; these are among the holiest places in Vatican City, and have attracted millions of people from across the world. St. Peter’s Square is the place where the largest papal audiences meet for Pope’s blessings and masses. There is also St. Peter’s tomb inside St. Peter’s Basilica. This is where St. Peter is believed to have been buried, and it is the official burial place hosting several Popes’ tombs.

Therefore, the Catholics believe that St. Peter was the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and that every Pope is a subsequent follower of St. Peter.
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