Synopsis : Vatican as the seat of the Roman Catholic faith faces many challenges such as the serious nature of pedophilia among the clergy and the dilution of the faith among certain populace who are disillusioned by the scandals in the church . It also faces serious challenge from the protestants who although not free from scandals of their own present an alternative. The Vatican must come up with reforms or see its influence wane.
I am always impressed by the Vatican. When you stop in front near the obelisk and look toward the cathedral you cannot but be impressed because it is so awe inspiring building. Then you go inside the huge main door and you come face to face with the seat of the Catholic power. From here the Pope wields his moral and religious power over the millions of followers all over the world. If you are lucky, you may even see him on certain days speaking from his balcony high in the building to the right side.
But what is impressive about the Vatican is its size and the luxurious interior where the floor itself is made of colored marbles in a fantastic way over which soars the cupola at a tremendous height that helps resonate the sound inside. To your right is the statue of Pieta made by Michael Angelo so many centuries ago that is nothing short of wonderful. One cannot imagine the perfection and the sheer beauty of the statue until you stand in front of it and wonder how the sculptor carved such a thing out of a block of marble so long ago with his primitive tools and produce such results.
Then you face the curved black pillars that look like a twisted rope and wonder how a piece of black stone was turned into such shape using what technology so long ago. This is the basilica of St. Peter who was crucified here and buried deep underneath. You then descend below the floor to reach the crypts through the curved stairs and see all the popes buried there. Some crypts have elaborate marble resemblance of the Pope while others have more simple crypts.
Here you will also see the Vatican museum albeit a small one where you can see the gold chalices and drinking cups used by the popes centuries ago. Someone may tell you that the gold drinking cup encrusted with jewels has a sinister past. Its handle has a secret button that when pressed released the poison stored in the hollow of the handle into the wine that the pope offered his guests to shorten their mortal lives. You would not associate such a holy place and its ruler to resort to such criminal tactics but they did in the past and the popes were far from what they appeared to be.
They were very powerful and used their power through their private army to impose the will of Vatican over those who showed rebellion. They kept women with whom they sired illegitimate children and ordered the unrepentant to be persecuted meaning tortured and burned at stake so thousands of innocent people were killed through inquisition that has left a permanent blot on its history.
Jesus never meant his vicars to behave this way to do what they wanted but he was dead so the popes were free to do as they pleased. Standing there in Vatican it gives you chills when you learn about its past history.
Now the times have changed or have they really? The Vatican runs banks where the criminals have been laundering their black money for years until a Pope started looking into its affairs closely and paid with his life when someone mixed poison into his milk late at night. This was highlighted in the Godfather Part 3 movie.The scandal of the bank continued to plague the church resulting in more deaths of some bankers under mysterious circumstances.
The Vatican is run by the cardinals and selected priests who wield enormous power and control enormous wealth of the church. They also select the pope in a secret conclave inside the Sistine chapel right next door behind the locked door. If you go inside the chapel which is normally open to tourists, you will find them looking at mirrors that show the paintings on its ceiling done by Michael Angelo long ago where the poor artist worked upside down in lamp light and terrible discomfort to make his masterpiece works losing his health and eyesight for pittance but the tourists don’t care and don’t know the history.
Then you walk all the way to the side of Vatican by taking the road to the right and find the small entrance to the main Vatican museum where for a hefty fee you are given a ticket to enter and see the treasures that are displayed in numerous rooms. In Rome you see so much statuary that it can get pretty tiring to see more of them in the museum but you cannot avoid them.
The Vatican library as shown in the movie is off limits to common people but it contains original documents and books some 2000 years old kept under heavy guard and locks .You will not miss the Swiss guards in obsolete and clownish uniforms but don’t be fooled by their looks. They are armed and know how to use them. The cctv cameras follow everyone everywhere so you can be sure that someone is always watching you no matter where you are.
On any given day there are a thousands of camera toting tourists of all nationalities many of them not even Christians like me to gawk at the displays but on certain occasions the piazza is full of thousands of pilgrims in all sorts of religious attires who gather to listen to the sermons given by the pope who appears high in a window probably for security reasons. I got a good shot of a pope I can’t remember which one through my telephoto lens once.
The Catholics are found in many countries in large numbers who listen to the guidance given to them by the pope so he plays a very important role in their spiritual world. Now if a pope starts suggesting reforms in the church due to corruption, pedophile priests and other rot that has crept in over a period, he faces stiff opposition and risks his life as one pope found out the hard way.
The current pope is a reformist but he too has his limits and treads carefully through the minefield of Vatican politics never knowing who will undermine him and his efforts Some sects like Opus Dei are highly secretive and have their own hidden agenda that even the pope may not know anything about. Then we hear of the Illuminatis as well.
The current issues facing the Catholic church includes the abuse of children by many priests and others who are pedophiles and get the protection from their superiors who condone or ignore such crimes and just transfer the offending priest to another parish where he may continue his activities again. In the USA, in Australia, in many other countries people have come forward to expose these pedophiles by giving testimonies and sharing their harrowing experiences with the media resulting in massive compensations paid by the church and defrocking the offenders. This is a very serious issue that undermines the credibility of the church itself and people very disappointed at the lack of reform often leave and join other sects like the protestants etc.
If you study the Bible, you will understand that Jesus himself never told anyone of his followers to be celibate. Now there are evidences coming out in some gospels found in Egypt and documents and scrolls found in Nag Hamadi and elsewhere that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute as depicted by the later gospel writers of the period but was the wife of Jesus. She was of royal descent. Young Jewish men of that period when Jesus lived always got married and there are reasons to believe that Jesus did the same.
This clashed with the dogma preached by his followers that resulted in Mary Magdalene fleeing the land of Israel while she was pregnant and arriving in southern France where she died and is buried in Rennes le chateau area leaving the bloodline of Jesus from which the Merovingian kings rose and ruled France for centuries. But that is another story that has no place here.
The Catholic Church as it is now probably will not survive in the long run unless the Pope seriously makes reforms and amends to those the priests abused. He has taken some steps in this regard but a lot more needs to be done to clean up the church. He has lately suggested that there is nothing wrong in priests getting married and still serve the church but the hard liners would have none of it.
The organized religions have faced such challenges from time to time and some have made changes while others remain mired in their dogma and bureaucracy. The Protestant church in general has not faced the problems to the extent the Catholic church has although some tele evangelists have shown disregard to morality and cavorted with prostitutes in some cases but the fact remains that they get to marry as pastors and live a more contented life compared to the catholic priests.
In Hindu religion all priests marry because the wife is considered a part of their religious life and is an asset instead of liability as preached by the Catholic dogma. When the Vatican will make the necessary reforms in this regard, I am sure a part of the problem of pedophilia will be solved so I commend the current Pope for taking such a bold stance in this matter. If he gets the support of his cardinals, there may be reform in the church in a very positive way.