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Vatican City State

Official Country Name: Vatican City State (Holy See)
Region: Europe

Population: 880
Language(s): Italian, Latin
Literacy Rate: 100%

The Holy See, the national entity that is located in what is usually referred to as Vatican City, may be most easily defined as the central government of the Roman Catholic Church. The physical location of this ancient walled enclave is only .44 square kilometers. The total population of Vatican citizens can fluctuate between 400 to approximately 900 residents, with about 3,000 lay people who work within the Vatican but live outside its boundaries. Citizenship is not a birthright; citizens are primarily members of the clergy and can receive their citizenship for short but renewable periods of time as selected by the members of the Holy See. There is no annual birthrate, thus no need for primary schools, but it does consistently have a 100 percent literacy rate.

Besides what is within the Vatican walls, the Holy See also controls around a dozen buildings, such as the Castle Gondolfo (the Pope's summer residence) and many of the pontifical university buildings, which are outside the official boundaries. There are at least 15 educational institutions that have received Pontifical status from the Pope, but most actually exist on the streets of Rome not within the Vatican. The institutes, colleges, and universities do a wide variety of educational tasks from training young seminarians who are to receive their fundamental instruction before ordination up to training clergy from around the world on advanced studies in subjects like the canon law of the church, theology, and spirituality. The students may then return home or serve a mission elsewhere as a pastor, administrator, and/or instructor. Many of the institutions award graduate degrees, including doctorates.

Some of these major institutions of higher education that are actually within Rome's territory but claimed as part of the Vatican, are: Gregorian University (Pontificia Universita Gregoriana), which is paired, in physical plant and study, with the Biblical Institute (Pontificio Insituto Biblico) and its affiliated school, the Oriental Institute (Pontificio Isitutio Orientale); the Lateran University (Pontificia Universita Lateranense); Urban University (Pontificia Universita Urbaniana); St. Thomas Aquinas University (Pontificia Universita S. Tommaso d' Aquino); University of the Holy Cross (Pontificia Universita della Santa Croce); and Salesian University Pontificia Universita Salesiana), founded by St. John Bosco in the mid-1880s, named for a order of priests, brothers, and nuns who had a special devotion to helping young people, especially the poor, through education, activities, and work—often on farms.

The most famous of the universities may be Gregorian University, also known by the affectionate nickname of "The Greg." Its rector is appointed by the Pope and its teachers are almost all Jesuits (Society of Jesus), though not all of its students over the years have been clergy. Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Borgia in 1551, its curriculum includes canon law, theology, philosophy, psychology, social sciences, and church history. It was given its present name years after its founding to honor Pope Gregory XIII (much the way Urban University bares a name popular with popes for centuries), who helped to expand the school. Among its graduates are 16 popes, at least 19 canonized saints, and at least another 24 who have been beatified.

The Ethiopian College, the only school still within the grounds of the Holy See/Vatican City, is a seminar started to train young African males for the priesthood. It has graduated many of the African bishops and cardinals who are now in office. The North American College, like the Ethiopian College, was built for seminarians and priests from that particular continent. It is one of the newest institutions, having been founded about the time of the American Civil War. There are also other, older institutions within Rome's territory, like the Angelicum, run by the Dominicans, where Pope John Paul II took a doctorate.

Within the Vatican are several scholarly and educational institutions. Of great interest to scholars is the Vatican Library (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana), founded by Pope Nicholas V in the mid-1400s. It has been filled with books, manuscripts, and engravings throughout the centuries. It also contains the Vatican School of Librarianship. Next to the Apostolic Library is the Secret Vatican Archives. Obviously, its existence is not a secret, but it does conserve important possessions of the church along with ancient manuscripts and all the correspondence, since 1660, of the Holy See's Secretariat of State. It also runs the Vatican School of Palaeography, Diplomacy, and Archivistry. Additionally, there are three academies established for both study and promotion of the church's beliefs. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is by far the oldest, founded in 1603 when it was called the Academy of the Lynx-Eyed. Its 80 members are appointed by the pope and are chosen from around the globe. Both the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy for Life were founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

—Michael W. Young

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