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Vatican City

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Vatican City History

For over 1000 years, from the era of Charlemagne’s Frankish empire until 1870 most of the central Italian peninsula was under the direct or indirect rule of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Also, it had wielded immense power throughout the whole of Europe. The Popes were mainly responsible for launching the Crusades in the 11th century and held extreme political power through Europe in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the Papacy had so much power in Europe that till the 19th century most important decisions had to go through the Pope to get a final approval.

It was after the unification of Italy in the late-19th century, the Pope retreated into the Vatican enclave until the Lateran Treaty of 1929, between the Vatican and the Italian state, recognized Papal jurisdiction within the city. In 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became the first non-Italian incumbent of the Papacy since the 16th century, taking the title John Paul II. During his pontificate, the Vatican has experienced a major administrative upheaval and embroilment in a massive financial scandal. Pope John Paul was Polish and he became a national hero back home, where Catholicism is the most important religion. Unlike any of his 270 predecessors, Pope John Paul II made frequent overseas trips, usually to countries with a large Catholic population, and pursued an active ‘foreign policy’. Meanwhile, the world Catholic movements particularly in the Third World, where priests have been taking on political and social burdens become increasingly restive with what they perceive as reactionary attitudes on the part of the Vatican. The Pope became more of a diplomat as his helped end the 1989 crisis in Panama and he brought a new resurgence to the Catholic Church in many Eastern European countries, which during that time were under Communism. Another role he played was establishing diplomatic relations between Arabs and Israelis in 1994.

Pope John Paul died in 2005 and his predecessor has played another active role internationally, but not to the same extreme Pope John Paul II did. Pope Benedict, who is from Germany has big boots to fill, but so far has done a fantastic job.

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