Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

pp 1845-1847


  • Anthony J. EliaAffiliated withThe Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University Email author 

The Vatican is a 108-acre territory and independent city-state located in the center of the Italian capital of Rome. It is headed by the Pope, as supreme governor, and administered through the Pontifical Commission. It has its own legal system, based upon the 2000 Fundamental Law of the Vatican City-State, which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II, as well as a penal system, two jails, a post office, electric plant, bank, and publishing house. Canon law also presides, and in the cases where canon law does not apply, the laws of the city of Rome are employed. Originally, the term “Vatican” referred to the area of Rome called “mons vaticanus,” which was a hill sloping away from the center of the ancient city near the Tiber, and a location that was sacred for early Christians, who believed it to be the burial place of St. Peter (Allen 2004).

In common usage, the terms Vatican, Holy See, and Roman Curia are often interchanged imprecisely. Whereas the Vatican refers specifically to a physic ...

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