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Holy See Modern History

During World War II, Rome was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1943 and by the Allies from 1944, but the Vatican City was not occupied. The Pope declared the Vatican officially neutral and seemed to prevent Rome from being bombed. It did not succeed, and the Vatican was hit by bombs as well.

The Vatican was ruled by Pope Pius XII during the Second World War. His belief that communism was a greater threat than Nazism to the values ​​of the church became guiding Vatican policy. The pope was noticeably passive to the Holocaust and never mentioned the Jews as victims, although he might have more opportunity than any other international leader to influence Hitler.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Vatican. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Pius's passivity was severely criticized in retrospect, but the Catholic Church considered the image of him unfair, stating that the Pope had secretly helped save Jews from the Holocaust. In 1998, four decades after the death of Pius XII, the Vatican urged repentance and remorse from Catholics who failed to intervene to stop the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Pius XII's conservatism was followed by Pope John XXIII's publicity and attempts to open the church to society. John led the Second Vatican Council in 1962–1965, a church meeting which is referred to as the 20th century's most important church historical event.

The council helped open the Catholic Church to other communities, and it became possible to hold the Mass in languages ​​other than Latin. The church meeting also gained political significance by providing inspiration for radical movements, in which so-called liberation theology emerged in protest of social and political oppression, especially in Latin America and Africa.

Contemporary History of Vatican CityJohn Paul II and the Fall of Communism

The Second Vatican Council initiated the modernization of the Catholic Church, but it also led to a backlash among conservative church leaders. Cardinal Karol Wojtyła from Poland was one of the conservative theologians, while on social issues he was somewhat more progressive. In 1978 Wojtyła was elected new pope and took the name John Paul II. It was the first time in 450 years that the Pope was not Italian.

In 1981, John Paul II was seriously injured in an attack on St. Peter's Square. The man who shot the pope was sentenced to life imprisonment. In a later investigation, commissioned by the Italian Parliament, it was stated that the Soviet Union was behind the attempted murder carried out with the help of the Bulgarian security service. According to the investigation, the pope was to be murdered because he was perceived as a threat to communism in Europe and the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union's concern would prove to be justified. By his opposition to communism and his popularity in his home country, John Paul II is believed to have contributed to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. The Holy See reestablished diplomatic relations in 1989 with most countries in Eastern and Central Europe.

John Paul II essentially appointed conservative bishops and cardinals, and he rejected all demands for a more liberal view on moral issues. At the same time, he became the first media pope through television appearances during his many trips around the world. He also became popular with Catholic youth.

In the 1980s, the Vatican's bank (IOR; see Finance) was involved in a scandal in which the head of Italian Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi (called the "banker of God"), washed mafia money through accounts in his own bank and in IOR. According to prosecutors, the Vatican Bank's then-chief, Paul Marcinkus, was involved in the deal but escaped trial. Pope John Paul II left him as IOR chief. When Banco Ambrosiano went bankrupt, IOR lost the equivalent of over SEK 1 billion in compensation to account holders.

Pope Benedict XVI takes office

During John Paul's time as Pope, a new concord was signed between Italy and the Vatican. It happened in 1984 after 17 years of negotiations, on the initiative of Italy. The changes meant that Catholicism was no longer state religion in Italy and that most of the special privileges of the Catholic Church were abolished.

John Paul II sought a closer dialogue with leaders of other religions and Christian communities, but conflicts arose that prevented a real approach. Unlike the Vatican, the Anglican and Lutheran churches accept female priests, and with the Russian Orthodox Church, riots arose as Catholics tried to gain new followers in Eastern Europe. During a visit to India, the Pope called on people to convert to Catholicism, which upset many Hindus.

A large number of noted Catholics were blessed or sanctified by John Paul II. In 2003, Mother Teresa was blessed, known for her efforts for the poor in the slum of the Indian city of Calcutta. John Paul himself was blessed six years after his death, 2011.

When John Paul II died in 2005, German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected new Pope under the name Benedict XVI. He emphasized the importance of defending the traditional values ​​of the Church and pointed to relativism (the denial of objective moral truth) as one of the greatest dangers of our time. Benedict XVI shared his representative's resistance to, for example, divorce, abortion, contraception and female priests.

Sexual abuse of children

Pope Benedict XVI's term of office came to be troubled. It was characterized by both internal power struggles and corruption scandals in the Vatican. All this, however, was overshadowed by the revelations in 2010 of a large number of child abuse by Catholic priests and other church representatives. In the United States, hundreds of priests were accused of sexual assault on hundreds of children. Sex offenses were also targeted at priests in Belgium, Ireland, Australia and Germany. It was also revealed that several bishops have darkened information about abuse that came to their notice.

The Vatican had been trying to deal with similar accusations ever since the 1990s and when new sexual assaults emerged today, the Vatican was accused of blaming the scandal. Many felt that the Church was trying to protect the perpetrators rather than the victims. Among other things, the Vatican preferred that the church itself, instead of the police, should investigate the charges.

Also, Pope Benedict XVI was criticized for not acting on suspected perpetrators during his time as responsible cardinal of the department that had to deal with allegations of sexual abuse.

As a result of the criticism the same year, the Vatican presented guidelines on how bishops and other church leaders should deal with suspected sexual offenses; they should now be reported to the police rather than previously handled in secret courts within the church.

Excuse and damages

All allegations of sexual abuse could not be proven, but the Catholic Church in the United States was forced to pay a total of over $ 2 billion in damages to the victims. Diocese went bankrupt, bishops were forced to resign and hundreds of priests were dismissed or left their offices. At a state visit to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the abuses committed within the Church.

The Pope acknowledged in 2010 that the scandals had reached an extent that the Vatican could not imagine. He apologized and expressed the shame of the Catholic Church over what had happened.

With Ireland, the abuse scandal led to a diplomatic conflict. In an official Irish investigation in 2011, the Catholic Church was accused of darkening abuse, prompting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to criticize the Vatican, who rejected the charges and exchanged its envoy to Ireland. The Irish government responded by closing its embassy in the Vatican.

In 2012, the Vatican decided to set up a global church center with the task of combating child abuse through the Internet.

Unique decision when the Pope leaves

In early 2012, information came from a Catholic archbishop on widespread corruption within the Vatican's administration, the influential courier. At the same time, the United States identified the Vatican as vulnerable to money laundering. In addition, the Council of Europe criticized the Vatican's bank for lack of transparency (see Finance). The same year, the Vatican was hit by "Vatileaks," when secret documents leaked from the Pope's office revealed corruption, malpractice and internal power struggles.

85-year-old Benedict XVI emerged as a tired and weak leader surrounded by intrigue. The Pope's butler was sentenced in October 2012 to 18 months in prison for theft of secret acts. Some observers felt that the butler was merely a tool for more powerful forces, and that the Vatican's head of government, the cardinal and the state secretary, Tarcisio Bertone, was really the target of Vatileaks. In December of that year, the Pope pardoned his old butler but banned him from the Vatican area.

In February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI surprisingly announced his departure. He explained that failing health and strength no longer made him able to exercise the papacy during a time of rapid change. His departure was a unique event as it was the first time in six centuries that a pope chose to resign. The usual thing is that a pope remains alive.

Pope Benedict XVI was seen as one of the foremost theologians of the Catholic Church. He placed more emphasis on defending the Church's doctrine than leading the Vatican's political activities. He emphasized that Christian beliefs and intellectual reason were connected, he pointed out secularization and moral relativism (the denial of objective moral truth) as the fundamental problem of the EU, and he urged Europe to return to a Christian foundation of values.

 
 

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