Unquestionably the highlight of our trip to Italy was our time spent in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.
Vatican City, officially the Vatican City State, is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of 842, it is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population.It is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. Since the return of the Popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.Vatican City is distinct from the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes), which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.2 billion Latin and Eastern Catholic adherents around the globe.
St. Peter’s Square (Forum Sancti Petri) is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo.
St. Peter’s Basilica is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.
Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles and also the first Pope; supposedly, St. Peter’s tomb is directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
Through persistent efforts over several weeks to his Vatican contacts, Fr Andrzej obtained seven tickets for seven members of St. Paul’s group to sit on the platform to the left of the Pontiff and immediately behind the row of cardinals.
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican. The Vatican itself refers to the building as the Palace of Sixtus V in honor of Pope Sixtus V.
The building contains the Papal Apartments, (seen immediately above St. Peter’s Basilica in the St. Peter’s image above, but not attached to it) various government offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museumsand the Vatican library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartment.
The official symbols of a papacy: a lamb’s wool shawl, to represent the pope’s role as “the good shepherd,” and the Fisherman’s Ring, to represent his role of spreading the gospel.
The ring Pope Francis wears is not solid gold like that of his predecessors, but made of gold-plated silver — again reflecting his desire for simplicity.