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Decoding complex aspects of Vatican City hidden under the wraps

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1280px-St_Peter's_Square,_Vatican_City_-_April_2007

By Harshmeet Singh

Vatican City, the world’s smallest and the least populated independent country is a mystery to many people around the world. A walled enclave within the Italian capital, Rome, Vatican City has a population of 842! And among those 842 citizens is the Pope – the leader of Catholic Church. The history of the Vatican is one complex and interesting story!

Papal States

Earlier in the day, most of today’s Italy came under ‘Papal States’ which was ruled by the Popes. During their rule, they also established the St. Peter’s Basilica which was the world’s largest church at that time. This church was constructed in a hilly area, known as Vatican. After the church came up, the Popes decided to build a wall around the church, to protect it from foreign attacks.

In 1870, the Kingdom of Italy captured Rome. After the capture, the erstwhile Pope hid behind the walls of the Vatican, which has since been the capital of the Catholic Church. Italy decided against attacking the Vatican, thinking that it might have religious consequences. Rather, Italy decided to be patient and what for the Pope to come out of the walled Vatican; a wait that didn’t end for 6 decades.

And then entered Benito Mussolini

Worried over Italy’s negative image being propagated worldwide due to Pope’s accusations of ‘imposed imprisonment’, Italy’s then Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini decided to strike a deal (Lateran treaty) with the Pope. According to the deal, Italy would give the Vatican’s land to the Pope along with some financial compensation. In return, the Pope must acknowledge the existence of Italy and remain neutral during any future conflicts or in politics.

With the signing of the deal, the world got a new country, Vatican City. Today, that country has all the aspects of a sovereign nation, including its own laws, king, stamps, etc.

Understanding the Vatican

Apart from the incredibly famous Pope, Vatican City is also home to a King and the Holy See! The throne of the Pope is given the name – Holy See. Apart from the throne, The Holy See is also the name given to the rules of the Catholic Church.

One of the least known aspects about the Vatican is that it is a monarch with absolute power to the King. And surprisingly enough, there are no talks about the King of Vatican City! This is what makes Vatican one of the few countries to use Euro as a currency without being a part of the European Union. Since EU membership is only given to democratic nations, Vatican can’t be a member nation of the EU.

Here comes the most puzzling piece of information – The King of the Vatican is the same person as the Pope! In his capacity as the King, he can overrule any decision of the legislative within the Vatican without giving any reason. It is, in fact, a unique case of an elected leader getting limitless power within a country.

And the confusion goes far beyond

Vatican City, despite being recognized as a nation, isn’t a member of the United Nations. In fact, it is The Holy See that holds a permanent observer status in the UN, but without any voting rights. Confused? There are still some more weird facts to go! There are no female citizens in the Vatican, meaning that no one is born a Vatican citizen. The only way to gain the membership of Vatican City is to be granted the same by the King. And the King only grants membership to those who serve the Holy See. In short, only the servants of the Pope get to be the citizens of Vatican City. The citizenship ends as soon as the person resigns from the job.

According to the Lateran treaty signed between Mussolini and the Pope, if a person loses his citizenship of Vatican City and isn’t a citizen of any other nation, he would be automatically recognized as an Italian citizen.

Due to its extremely small size (44 hectares), Vatican City is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t house any foreign embassies. The embassies to the Holy See are located in Rome.

With many more such complex aspects of Vatican City hidden under the wraps, the country remains an enigma for the outer world. But perhaps what is more important is to understand the faith and belief that billions of Catholic around the world have in this tiny nation and everything that it engulfs.

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Child Vaccination Mandate Still Under The Confusion Reigns in Italy

According to a 2010 survey of 27 EU states, plus Norway and Iceland, 15 countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations; the other 14 have at least one

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A doctor injects vaccine into a patient's arm, in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2018.
A doctor injects vaccine into a patient's arm, in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2018. (VOA)

Italians are divided between those who think parents should have the right to decide whether to vaccinate their children and those who feel immunization programs must be decided by the government, which they believe has better access to information. Vaccine regulations differ widely across Europe, and the current situation in Italy is in limbo.

Italians enrolling their children in state-run nursery schools currently are uncertain if they need to provide evidence their children have had 10 vaccinations required by a law that came into effect in March. A week ago, the upper house of parliament voted through an amendment to remove that obligation. But to become law, it must also be approved by the lower house.

Parents have been told that for the time being they can simply provide a self-signed declaration that their children have been vaccinated. Many remain unclear whether their children will be allowed to go to school if they fail to provide a declaration or other evidence of the vaccinations.

A surge of more than 5,000 measles cases last year – the second largest outbreak in Europe – led the government run then by the Democratic Party to pass a bill requiring mandatory vaccinations. However, in the run-up to general elections this year, the 5-Star Movement led by Luigi Di Maio and the League led by Matteo Salvini said they would do away with the law. Now in power, they appear to be keeping their promise

Speaking at a recent political rally near Florence, Salvini admitted he had vaccinated his own children and said that parents who have the best interests of their children at heart should be able to make that choice. He added that 10 vaccines are simply too many for some children and it is unthinkable that Italian children may not be able to enroll in school because they have not been vaccinated.

vaccination
Confusion Reigns in Italy Over Child Vaccination Mandate. VOA

Salvini said a state that requires 10 vaccines must also give parents the certainty that nothing will happen to their children through pre-vaccine tests, which today do not exist. There are 15 European countries, he added, that do not even have a single mandatory vaccine. Noting that Italy now has the most compulsory vaccinations of any country in Europe, Salvini expressed the concern that some multinational or pharmaceutical company may have chosen Italian children as a testing ground.

Italy’s health minister, Giulia Grillo, a doctor and a member of the 5-Star Movement, has made clear the government believes the right balance must be struck between the right to education and the right to health.

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Grillo said the 5-Star Movement is not opposed to vaccines and recognizes their importance and usefulness. She added that citizens need to be informed properly about vaccinations and that the National Health Service must provide support to parents and children before and after they are inoculated.

According to a 2010 survey of 27 EU states, plus Norway and Iceland, 15 countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations; the other 14 have at least one. The most common mandatory vaccine is against polio, followed by diphtheria and tetanus. (VOA)