|Motto: Eta dog todae|
|Anthem: "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode|
|Official language(s)||Latin, denial|
|Established||11 February 1929|
Vatican City is a 110-acre walled enclave within Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Catholic Church. It is the smallest independent state in the world. However, it is not exactly a nation. Its highest functionaries are Catholic clergymen of various other nationalities. Indeed, if you are crossing the border back from Mexico at San Ysidro, and are asked what is your "nationality," it does not do to reply, "Vatican." Especially if you smirk.
The head of state of the Vatican is the Bishop of Rome, who happens to be the Pope. Since the return of the Popes from Avignon in 1337, they now reside at the Apostolic Palace next door to St. Peter's Basilica. Popes will double up in suites at La Quinta if the Palace should be booked.
Vatican City is distinct from the Holy See, the ancient Sanctum Santorum, and its sanitary sewers are entirely separate from the Holy Smell. It was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, which gives the Holy See "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" over Vatican City, a territorial Stairway to Heaven in the same year the rest of the world's economies were going straight to Hell. By comparison, Fred Phelps could only wish he had such dominion over the televangelism empire of the Westboro Baptist Church, or even the ability to pull the drawbridge up above the moat when the tax man came calling.
The Vatican holds cultural sites such as the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. They house some of the world's most famous works of art, as well as its most famous pedophiles. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of absolutions, audiences, and annulments. It is famously not supported by toll revenue, as drivers may pass the toll booth into the Holy City by simply saying four Hail Marys. The Vatican also prints up its own postage stamps, although the key to this racket is the number of Catholic letter carriers in the rest of the world who will deliver the eventual letters.
The Vatican City is all that remains of the Roman Empire, which Constantine the Great gifted to Saint Peter and all his successors. The Papacy claimed primacy throughout Europe and proclaimed that everyone from a Holy Roman Emperor to a shit-caked peasant owed their allegiance to the Bishop of Rome. The ecclesiastical term for this is pwnage, but it left something to be desired as a method of governing an entire continent. After putting up with this for 1800 years, the Italians revolted in 1870 and locked the Popes inside Vatican City.
Originally, the Popes did not 'live above the shop.' The tomb of St. Peter was for well-endowed pilgrims only. The Popes lived over at the Lateran Palace inside Rome, safely inside the city and away from religious zealots. It was only when the Lateran area (and much of Rome) was repeatedly sacked, burnt, and pillaged that the Holy Father had someone pick up his robes and move inside St. Peter's.
The Vatican is a centre of Western culture, with art treasures locked in the secret underground vaults of St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican regards this as a resource that will someday unlock happiness for the human race, while priests and monks take a vow of poverty with which the Church qualifies for tax-free status in most nations. The Vatican's response is that "the price is not yet right."
Stained glass windows and other beautiful works of art adorn the cathedrals in the Vatican. These immortalise saints and important Catholic figures, while taking care not to feature Jesuits and other Masons in a positive light.
The entrepreneurial Pope Benedict IX was the only Pope to have held the papacy three times: in 1032, 1045 and 1047. His two encores are known cinematically as Return of Benedict, and Benedict IX III: A New Beginning, respectively. St. Peter Damian Omen II described Benedict as “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest” and said he “feasted on immorality with routine homosexuality and bestiality," which is a balanced diet in anyone's Good Book.
Considering these traits, it will come as no surprise that Pope Benedict IX was a shrewd businessman. During the last year of his first reign, Benedict sold Vatican City for a nice comfortable retirement vineyard in Tuscany, and a nice comfortable Tuscan Domina Voluptuate to go with it.
Within a year, Benedict returned to Vatican City to secure a steady income for his soon-to-be-high-maintenance wife. After a relaxing overnight stay in the Holy IBIS business hotel, Benedict violently overthrew the new Pope (in the "Shoot-out at the ☧ Corral"), reacquiring Vatican City, which he re-sold the next morning — this time, to his uncle for a few kilos of gold. After settling the bills of the matrimonial ice-swan carver and grape peeler with a sword, Benedict had enough left over to open the Vatican Gift Shop.
The gift shop still celebrates the rich history of the Church. For $50, you can have your pug blessed with a bit of Pope Benedict's holy water, pick up the current copy of Papal Times (or foreign papers such as The Watchtower), and stand in line to buy a ticket in the Vatican's "Mega-Redemptions" lottery, either picking your own Powerball or letting the machine select your fate for you. In this way, the random punter can buy a Benediction of his own.
Law and order
Vatican City has its own government with the Pope as an absolute monarch. The Vatican mints its own euros, which have borne the motto of "In Dog We Trust" since the days of Pope Malegard the Dyslexic. Vatican City issues its own passports and license plates, operates media outlets, has its own flag and anthem.
As a sovereign state, it operates a criminal justice system, with various treaty provisions with Italy for criminals who commit in one jurisdiction and hide in the other. These provisions are all enforced by Italian police, as bishops do not like it when their prayer beads clickety-clack against handcuffs, sidearms, and batons as they walk.
Vatican City's holy commandments still apply beyond the mortal coil, and punishment for crime is not limited to the living either. Pope Formosus (891-896) discovered this after his death in 897. Accused of acceding to the papacy illegally, Formosus' successor Pope Stephen VI exhumed him to pass judgment.
Formosus’ cadaver was seated on a throne in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, while Stephen interrogated it. Vatican City does not afford the accused the right against self-incrimination, but Formosus put up no defence other than smell. Formosus was convicted for transmigrating sees, committing perjury, and acting as bishop after being deposed. As punishment, he was stripped of his vestments, the three fingers of the right hand used for benedictions were cut off, all his ordinations were nullified, and “not-Pope Formosus” was re-buried.
Vatican City does not recognise the right against double jeopardy, either, and when Stephen decided that Formosus' corpse did not seem sufficiently sorry, he was dug-up again and thrown in the River Tiber, then re-buried. Many years later, Pope Sergius III, the son of a Roman nobleman, disapproved of Formosus' behaviour again and had him dug up again, tried again, beheaded this time, and thrown into the Tiber again.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, established in 1936 by Pope Pius XI, is the most focused centre of science and research in the world, as any breakthrough has been the difference between life-changing discoveries, life, a life sentence, and death. The Academy focuses on the boundary between the sciences and related epistemological problems; namely, that no discoveries ever rule out the existence of The Almighty. Scientists watch their bubbling test tubes nervously, knowing they and their results are under the protection of the reigning Supreme Pontiff and funded by God.
The Academy has its headquarters in the heart of the Vatican Gardens (next to the broccoli and courgettes). It comprises the most respected names in 20th century science, including such Nobel laureates as Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck, Otto Hahn, Niels Bohr and Charles Hard Townes. Smart enough to keep their focus away from the question of creation, these brilliant scientists research in cosmology, Quantum Physics and nuclear weaponry were world-changing.
The Vatican Observatory is at the cutting edge of the search for exoplanets, stellar astronomy and cosmology. From the minute fuzzy edges of quantum theory to the giant fuzzy edges of spacetime, the research shows the Lord's scientific perspective still fits neatly among others scientific perspectives, in the region where maths runs out of steam.
It was a lesson hard learned. In 1600 the Vatican executed Italian philosopher and scientist Giordano Bruno for the crime of heresy, after he insisted that Copernicus may have been onto something in suggesting the Earth rotated around the sun. The Vatican held that such a view did not serve the goals of science, and ordered Bruno's tongue to be tied so that he would not further such views at his execution and spoil the historic event. In 1633, Galileo provided hard proof, and thus was merely given life imprisonment.
However, showing that forgiveness shows no bounds, in 1992 Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the Church had wronged Galileo, as theologians had to work with the knowledge available at the time. He did not mention the knowledge available over the intervening 360 years, and no thanks to the Church. Galileo would have felt semi-vindicated, had this happened before he died in prison.
The Academy's Astronomy Department probes deeper into the underside of God's existence than the reader's proctologist and has adopted the enlightened view that proving the theory of everything, including whether God exists, requires a calculation so exquisite that only God Himself could manage it. As the celestial Big Guy has not yet stepped forward, the Ordained still encourage, but keep a close eye on, the research.
Degree and post-graduate programs are offered by the College of Cardinals. Discipline is strict, and the faculty face penalties under Cardinal Law if they should be caught engaging in Cardinal Sin. However, one thing Cardinal Law himself does not face is extradition back to the United States, such as to investigate how he dealt with a wave of Cardinal Sin involving acolytes and choirboys by transferring the guilty parties to a parish down the road where they could enjoy a "fresh start."
The Vatican maintains an elite core of superpowered soldiers known as the Vatican Special Forces (aka the Swiss Guards). Only the most fit Swiss males are selected for membership into this awesome clan. After completing four months of some of the longest attack, strength, defence, magic, range, and prayer training in the world, and a strict diet of boy juice, successful recruits receive a Dragon Chain and an Abby Whip. Anyone who laughs at the outfit of the Swiss Guards risks being shot down by the crystal bows that all Swiss Guards hide under their freak hats.
Vatican F.C. play all their home games in St. Peter's Square. Pope John Paul II was the team's official goalkeeper until his death. Current Pope Francis likes to play as a maverick left-winger. His predecessor Pope Benedict XVI was an excellent right-winger but tended to score a lot of own goals. The team plays a full schedule of friendlies against other clubs like the Anglicans, Lutherans and Orthodox. The Vatican team has gained a reputation for sharp elbows and tripping up their opponents but new Pope Francis says he wants to see his 'boys' play fair and do a better job of spreading things around.
A women's team in American football hopes to be the first NFL expansion team outside the United States. Its play specialises in the Hail Mary, under knuckle-rapping head coach Sister Sally Field. If the NFL admits the new team, the league's obligatory post-game press conferences will be the first time in the Church that confessions are televised.
The clergy of Vatican City are gregarious by nature and their lifestyle revolves almost exclusively around partying and socialising. The city centre is constructed around a square (piazze), where people congregate en-mass, in the evenings. Tourists can experience a different side of Vatican City during the night as the entire region rises again with spectacular lights that illuminate its architectural wonders.
Take a walk to the Apostolic Palace right before midnight and you can entertain yourself observing bunches of clergy coming down from the entrance to show themselves off, and to try to chat up the foreign girls like modern (but mostly harmless) predators.
Bars and cafés remain open, often into the small hours. The bars have guitar playing nuns, trendy Gins and prayer in the evenings. In recent years, many ‘astral-pubs’ have opened serving fine wines with a selection of unleavened breads with olive oil. These are more sophisticated than a typical pub — more like a nightclub-come-mass — and drinks are hellishly expensive.
St. Peter's Basilica, in particular, looks more beautiful at night than it does during the day. A fortress called Castel Sant'Angelo, which has now been turned into Club Zion, looks impressive as it is lit up entirely at night by neon and lasers. The official website of The Vatican provides tourists with some valuable information about various attractions and their happy-hours.
Vatican City has a well-developed transportation system, provided you are on foot. This city, 0.6 mile long and 0.5 mile wide, is the only sovereign nation on earth that shockingly lacks scheduled domestic flights, or any other, with the exception of a small heliport with daily flights on Pope Air. This airline's unique flying stock — 3 cherubim and 4 seraphim — lets passengers debate how many pinheads can dance on the head of an angel.
Economists at the International Monetary Fund have recommended that the key to economic development of Vatican City is the construction of an international airport, and a Working Group is dealing with what to do with the people and buildings when the entire territory becomes an asphalt taxiway.
Vatican City is served by railway, as Italy's rickety rail network has the unsafe Basilica spur line to take the traveller directly to the Pearly Gates. The City is served by the modern Vatican Telephone Service, though phoning God is still not direct-dialled but requires the use of an operator.
The Vatican City Postal System was commissioned in 1929 and has won awards as "best in the world," though the Roto-Rooter sales office in Billings, Montana has a mailroom that is comparable in size and efficiency. Some mail posted from the Vatican has arrived at its destination before some posted from Rome, and very little mail never arrives, as there is nowhere in the Vatican to misplace it. Best of all, the Postal System is the only such service that turns a profit every year, as most of the ornate, commemorative stamps are sold to people who could not bear to actually lick them and slap them on envelopes.
Vatican City controls its own top-level domain (TLD) on the Internet, which means that anything ending in
.va goes right to the Pope, or pretty near, even mail that the sender intended for the state of Virginia. The same is true for ham radio stations with call letters starting in
HV and, breaker-one-nine, the Pope's Citizens Band handle is "Holy Guy," as he often communes not just with the Afterworld but with truckers. Cardinal Law is hailed as "Big Red."
Though the Vatican manufacturing sector has largely been outsourced to the Far East, and its paramilitary operations outsourced to Arabia, the Vatican retains a vibrant industrial sector. It complies with stringent EU pollution standards, as local officials strive to ensure that the smoke rising from the city's only smokestack is white.
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