Read on to learn about the lesser-known facts of the Vatican, including the wide practice of exorcism and the thriving football scene at the smallest state in the world.
The Vatican is the world’s smallest sovereign state, located within the city of Rome, Italy. With an area of less than half a square kilometer, it has a population of less than 1,000 and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis, as the head of the Catholic Church, is also the spiritual leader of the Vatican City State.
While it is known to many for its stunning art and architecture, there are several lesser-known secrets and interesting facts about Vatican City. Here are the top five:
Exorcism is still widely practiced
Although exorcism is often associated with horror movies and medieval times, it continues to be practiced in the Catholic Church today. The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, served for 60 years and is believed to have performed over 160,000 exorcisms during his career.
The Vatican has even developed a protocol for performing exorcisms, and the practice is not limited to the chief exorcist alone. Various Popes have also performed exorcisms over the years, including Pope John Paul II, who personally performed three exorcisms during his reign. In 2018, the Vatican welcomed 250 priests from around the world to an annual workshop on exorcism.
Annual football league
The Vatican City Football Scene Vatican City may be the world's smallest sovereign state, but it has a thriving football scene. It boasts no less than eight amateur clubs, men's and women's national teams, and runs three annual club competitions, as well as its own mini World Cup, the Clericus Cup, that takes place every year.
According to the Week, goals were celebrated in the Vatican as far back as the 16th century. On 7 January 1521, and with Pope Leo X looking on, the then Papal States organized a Florentine football match – an early form of the game that is still played in Italy and from which modern-day football and rugby originated.
The modern game reached Vatican City shortly after World War II, and it hosted its first tournament in 1947: a four-team competition between sides made up of employees of the Holy See. The league championship is currently contested by eight clubs, whose players work in the Holy See.
Latin Language and the Vatican Bank
Latin in the Vatican Bank The Vatican Bank is the only bank in the world that allows ATM users to select Latin to perform transactions. This is just one symbol of the Holy See's continued devotion to the language.
According to the Guardian, Pope Benedict XVI was particularly passionate about reviving the language and held many informal conversations in Latin. The Vatican's Latin Foundation tries to keep the language relevant by translating modern phrases into the ancient tongue. In 2003, they released an updated dictionary that included the terms rush hour (tempus maximae frequentiae) and dishwasher (escariorum lavatory).
The Vatican’s Secret Archives
The Vatican's Secret Archives The Vatican's secret archives haven't been truly secret since Pope Leo XIII allowed scholars to visit in 1881. Today, the archives are even more accessible, and outsiders are free to examine the correspondences of every pope for the past 1,000 years.
However, there is one catch: guests have to know exactly what they're looking for. With 52 miles of shelves in the archives, the librarians prohibit browsing. The most famous existing letter is probably Henry VIII's request that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon be annulled, reports the Telegraph.
According to History Channels, the Vatican has its own postal service, which has operated since 1929. It has its own post office, post boxes, and stamps, and it's the only postal service in the world that doesn't require a country name. Instead, mail is addressed to 00120 Vatican City, and the country name is optional. The Vatican's postal service is one of the few in the world that still delivers mail on foot.