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Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
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Our readers asked:

When was Vatican City created? Who was the first Pope to live there?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Some definitions to start:

“The Vatican” is the 108 acre plot of land in Rome, West of the Tiber River.

“The Papacy” is the office traced back to St. Peter who traditionally is considered to have been buried at “The Vatican,” so could we say he was the first Pope to “live” there?

The Lateran Treaty of 1929 created Vatican City as a political city state. Constantine gave Pope Militades the land in 313 AD. In 326, the Constantinian Basilica was built on what is thought by many to be the tomb of St. Peter. Pope Symmachus (498-514 A.D.) constructed a palace on Vatican land. Popes have lived at the Vatican since the return from Avignon in 1377.

Ask why the area is called the Vatican and you find various answers. But most seem to think it has something to do with the Latin “vates,” which means “tellers of the future.” Many fortune tellers used to set up shop on the West Bank of the Tiber.

More interesting to many Busted Halo readers would be some financial info on “The Vatican.” So many young adults believe, erroneously, that the Vatican is incredibly wealthy, hoarding billions that could be better used to serve the poor, etc. In fact, the Vatican’s annual budget is about $260 million. For comparison, Harvard’s is $1.3 billion and Microsoft spends $4.7 billion on R&D alone. Overall, the Vatican is worth about $1 billion. Harvard’s endowment was $36 billion before thecrash of 2008. Today Harvard’s endowment is $26 billion. Yale’s is $16 billion. Thus, Harvard’s and Yale’s endowments are 26 and 16 Vaticans (cf. Allen 2004; Fabrikant, New York Times, 09/10/2009). Bill Gates is worth $40 billion and Warren Buffet is worth $25 billion (http://www.forbes.com/2009/03/11/worlds-richest people-billionaires-2009-billionaires_land.html). Charitable organizations in the United States are much richer than the Vatican. The United Way takes in $3.8 billion in revenues, Goodwill $3.2 billion, and the Salvation Army $1.57 billion (http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/22/americas-largest-charities-personal-finance-charity-09-nonprofits_land.html)

The Vatican’s art treasures are “priceless,” which in reality means they cannot be bought.  Who has enough to pay for “priceless”? Those art works are held in trust for all humanity. The Vatican cannot sell the Sistine Chapel or the Pieta, and they must pay to maintain and protect those treasures. The Vatican does not own the property of Catholic churches around the world. The local dioceses own those properties. The Vatican can’t take them by “eminent domain.”

See John L. Allen’s excellent All the Pope’s Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks for more on the operation of the Vatican.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Critter Power

    Who was it that issued the Lateran Treaty recognizing the vatican as a city state? Oh yeah Mussolini, Hitler’s best friend. Then the two popes essentially collaborated with Hitler, Mussolini, and fascist dictators in Spain (franco) and Croatia (Pavelic) further exposing the true nature of the establishment- power.

  • tjcole

    An Ancestor of mine Mario Maffei was in charge of the Construction of The Vatican.! He was also among the first to recognize the genius of Michelangelo..!

    • glenp827

      Mike carved some very insipid animals— he had his weaknesses

  • kiki farrow

    i have to do a project on this? okk

  • A man with no name

    The Vatican is NOT the “Holy See.”
    That’s where the money is.

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  • Galaxy

    My Faith is very simple. To me, Jesus is a Healer and Light. I converted to Catholic but I really don’t understand the complicated system, Why should I call priest a Father? and the confession? I confess directly to Jesus and even before I do, He knows already what I have/not have done and I feel free.
    Guilt is negative energy and I have noticed that lots of Catholics are under guilt.
    This is an irony. God is Love.
    Why people are so crazy about Pope? He seems like a super star or God.
    It is hard for me to believe and don’t want to go through all this complexity to have relationship with Jesus. I saw Him twice in my dreams and told “Don’t be afraid…”Since this is very personal. I will keep it simple. He is not handsome Caucasian in my dream. Tanned and dark curly hair, very friendly, gave me a cup of water, I drank, the taste is sweet and cool. kept drinking.. never emptied.
    Endless Mercy…I am going through conflict right now. Faith doesn’t require all those man made system. so noisy….I used to attend Mass every single week with joy but the energy from some priests is very blocked and tight. they seem under pressure.
    I get stressed out when I sense it.

    • gooder1

      Galaxy, I am glad you found Jesus, and hope your dream is true for you. As for the Catholic Church, well, when Jesus prayed to the Father that his followers be “one” (John 17:21), he most certainly would have also prayed for the way that would be effected. And since the beginning, we see that Jesus left us a Church, a single-minded set of followers who deferred to the Apostles and their successors for assuredness of what Truth is. That is why the pope is so integral to establishing that oneness that Jesus prayed for. He is the 265th successor to the Apostle Peter, who was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, with the promise from our Lord that whatever teachings Peter would bind upon earth, would be bound also in heaven (Matthew 16:19). Additionally Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church (verse 18). In other words, hell will never overcome the church completely. And we’ve seen this throughout history. Time and again, whenever the Church was on the verge of extinction, it would suddenly rise up with a type of self-resuscitating power to once again flourish and bloom. That is the promise of our Lord in action. So, if you do not like the way the Church offers the Liturgy, then why not make your voice heard, and ask for reform. Don’t just run away. Be a part of it.

      • Galaxy

        I didn’t know the word ‘Pedophilia’ until I became Catholic.
        I wish monks, nuns, and priest could get married and be free from sexual repression which can cause great sin.
        My heart is tearing into pieces by those victims.
        Who has set this cruel rule of celibacy? I thought Catholic was beautiful. when I sing in the church my soul seem to be cleansed.
        Now, the more I dig in, the more I get hurt.

      • Mike

        he did really find Jesus, as you and others so call it. he/she only found out about Jesus — it takes a longer time to actually Find Jesus

      • glenp827

        Jesus was lost?

    • elvis

      Galaxy,take it to mind dat, in the old testament,if one commited he didn’t just confess to God and be done with the matter. he had to go to the priest
      read the book of Leviticus, 5 10,19 21, 12 6-8,, 13 14 and the whole book of lev and numbers, john 20:21-23 ok, about father, read acts 7 2, 1cor 4 15

  • William Johns

    Illuminating. Helpful.

  • King Harlem Smith


    • Mike

      one should not eat whatever it sat before them, it if suits there ears.

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