Hunger_in_Vatican_CityOn July 4, 2017, Pope Francis made a vibrant statement regarding the world’s suffering and hungry. He declared world hunger to be a direct result of nothing less than indifference and selfishness. Further, he saw the effects of these same problems in his immediate surroundings—there is hunger in Vatican City. Since the beginning of his service, Pope Francis has made addressing poverty, hunger and homelessness some of the most important goals for the Catholic Church in hopes to lead by example.

Due largely to the Catholic Church’s presence in the world’s smallest country, many of the poor and needy draw near to the Vatican. As the impoverished seek refuge, hunger is becoming a bigger problem for the Church to address. With Pope Francis at the helm of the Vatican’s efforts, the needy are being tended to with a vigorous priority.

Pope Francis has personally addressed hunger by appealing to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and pointing out the “uneven distribution of resources and the lack of agricultural development.” The Vatican has sponsored several refugees and their families facing the challenges of displacement, especially hunger. Further, the rest of Europe’s Catholic community has been encouraged to follow suit in accepting, housing and aiding those seeking refuge.

Contrary to tradition, Pope Francis insists on mobilizing the church by sending out the Vatican’s almoner. In the past, the almoner waits for letters from the poor for guidance on how to meet needs. However, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski has taken to the streets of Vatican City in attempts to help the poor and hungry. Krajewski’s method aligns with the rumors of Pope Francis instructing him to “sell his desk” since he would not be needing it.

One of the more controversial techniques to fight hunger in Vatican City came with a corporate lease of a Vatican building to McDonald’s in 2016. While some members of the Church and the Catholic community responded with alternative uses of the building, like housing the homeless, that attitude has since shifted as McDonald’s promised to hand out over 1,000 meals to the poor in their first six months of operations.

The 2030 Development Agenda of the U.N. reflects this same commitment of the Catholic Church. The fight for universal food security cannot be put off and Pope Francis recognizes that it is a demanding task. However, intentions to provide for everyone are not enough. Rather, people need to make a commitment to their country to increase the level of nutrition, to improve agricultural operations, to improve living conditions of rural communities and promote effective distribution of resources like food supplies. When a country is unable to provide for its people, then intergovernmental institutions need to step in. As Pope Francis said in his July 4 address, every person has a right to be free from poverty and hunger. Further, it is the duty of the entire human family to intervene and actually do something about it.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr;

Education in Vatican CityLocated in the heart of Rome, Italy, Vatican City is the smallest independent nation-state in the world. Its borders surround an area of just under 110 acres, and a majority of the nation’s citizens are members of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. There are roughly 800 people living in Vatican City, and because of the religious practices of the Roman Catholic clergy, there is no annual birth rate. There is no primary education in Vatican City; however, the governing body runs over 15 institutions of higher education. Most of these schools are located outside of the walls of the Vatican, the Ethiopian College being the only exception. Operating within Vatican City, the Ethiopian College guides young African men towards priesthood. One of the largest Vatican-run schools in Rome is Gregorian University, a school which boasts 16 popes and over 19 canonized saints as graduates. Gregorian University was founded in 1551, and the university offers religious educations in topics like canon law and theology.

One cannot discuss education in Vatican City without mentioning the library. The Vatican Library represents one of the largest existing sources of information on the development of the Western world. In 1548, Pope Paul III became the first Cardinal Librarian of the Vatican Library, and it has since served as a tool in the education of thousands of patrons. The American Friends of the Vatican Library was started in 1981, and since then they have raised money and awareness for the treasure trove of information that is the Vatican Library. The American Friends of the Vatican Library is based in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and funds projects like restorations and repairs of the Vatican Library.

Vatican City is by no means a conventional country; however, it is undeniable that education is and has always been something highly regarded by the Vatican City government. Poverty and poor education go hand and hand, and the Roman Catholic Church operating in Vatican City has provided the tools for the education of millions of people since its conception.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

 Vatican_Refugees
The Vatican has taken in several Syrian refugees over the last few months. In April of 2016, Pope Francis took 12 Muslim Syrians from three different families into the Vatican as refugees. In June, he welcomed nine more Syrians as Vatican City refugees, seeming very symbolic to many individuals throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The refugees that were brought into the Vatican were very grateful for the Pope’s “gesture of hope” and some even went on to call him a savior.

Being a refugee is difficult but being a refugee in Vatican City is not only difficult but also very interesting due to the uniqueness of the situation. Here are 10 facts about Vatican City refugees:

    1. The Greek island of Lesbos is where many Syrian refugees are being held and where the Pope took in a portion of the refugees in Vatican City. Most of the refugees on the island of Lesbos feel as though they are trapped as prisoners in the neglected detention center. They are also constantly at risk of being sent back to Turkey due to a new deportation deal between the E.U. and Turkey.
    2. The refugees the Pope took from Greece on his visit in April consisted of three families whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war. After bringing these refugees to the Vatican, the Pope declared that he wanted to make a gesture of welcome for the refugees.
    3. Even though many thought the Pope’s action in taking in these refugees were on a whim, his actions were actually carefully thought out and had involved a large amount of planning and paperwork for not only the Vatican and Italy, but also Greece.
    4. The Pope’s refugees will all be taken care of by the Catholic charitable association, Sant’Egidio, which will help care for the families and assist them in finding work.
    5. When questioned about why these specific families were chosen to be taken from Greece to the Vatican, the Pope did not explain, but instead simply stated that: “They are guests of the Vatican.”
    6. Beginning in the summer of 2015, thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, journeyed into Lesbos after paying smugglers to make the brief sea journey from Turkey. This smuggling of refugees caused the E.U. to have a political crisis which, in turn, led several countries to either restrict or completely close their borders.
    7. The number of migrants coming into Greece has fallen significantly since Turkey agreed to take back all of the individuals coming into the Greek islands for billions of dollars in E.U. cash. Over 1.1 million people have covertly crossed from Turkey to Greece since the start of 2015, and hundreds have drowned in this journey.
    8. In 2015, the Pope appealed to all Catholic diocese in Europe to take in a refugee family. Unfortunately, the Pope’s appeal was ignored by the majority of individuals across Europe.
    9. The Pope continued to fight for refugees when he offered special praise for ordinary Greeks who have taken refugees into their homes. Other religious leaders have called upon the E.U. to provide more help for Greece in this migrant crisis.
    10. Currently, there are 20 Syrian refugees living in the Vatican, which consists of 1,000 inhabitants.

While the Pope has clearly been doing his part in the Syrian refugee crisis, the issue has not been solved. However, using the Pope as a model by taking in refugees to the Vatican and treating them with respect, many individuals in Europe and around the world should have a better outlook on Syrian refugees and how they should be treated.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr

Mobile Medical Unit
Revolutionary in more ways than one, the Vatican recently donated a mobile medical unit to the people of one of the most ancient cities on the planet. The unit tours Rome’s borders and offers free health care to those in need — including but not limited to immigrants, expectant mothers and children.

Pope Francis is a prominent voice for those in need. Regularly speaking out about people living in poverty, the Pope frequently stresses the importance and impact that the impoverished have on society.

The life-saving vehicle does its best to blend in — with Vatican City license plates and the Holy See’s coat of arms (two keys topped by a papal crown), the mobile medical unit is Roman through and through. Dr. Lucia Ercoli, director of the Instituto di Medicina Solidale, said that using Vatican license plates allows migrants living in inhumane conditions to experience the closeness of the Pope and the church.

Istituto di Medicina Solidale staff, a group of volunteer doctors, health care professionals and medical students, use the RV-styled vehicle to assist people in need. The vehicle serves a diverse group of people, including many refugee children who lost their parents during the dangerous journey from their home country to Italy.

The group has been active since 2004 and partners with other nonprofit groups and the church to create makeshift clinics that offer services to the poor. In the summer of 2015, the association started providing services to a church-run center for immigrants near a city train station. In one day, hundreds of people showed up for check-ups.

In March of 2015, the Vatican opened a “clinic for the poor” located near the colonnade. The clinic offered free medical treatment and services to those unable to afford basic medical care.

Additionally, the Vatican has provided access to showers and barbershops. In October 2015, Pope Francis and his fellow Jesuits converted an old travel agency into a dormitory for the homeless.

The Vatican mobile medical unit provides a more private setting for patients and includes more equipment. As of August 2016, the vehicle has accommodated more than 2,000 people near shanty towns and abandoned buildings while simultaneously paving the way for further developments in healthcare.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Pixabay

John_Kerry_Vatican
United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with the Vatican on January 14 for an hour and a half to discuss issues facing the Middle East. Kerry and the Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolinm covered topics that ranged from Israel and Palestinian relations, the Syrian civil war and a possible meeting between Pope Francis and President Barack Obama.

John Kerry is the first Roman Catholic Secretary of State to visit the Vatican since the 1980’s. Kerry stopped by the Vatican on his way from Paris where he was at the Syrian Peace Talks with the UN.

The Pope has been very critical of the United States, debating whether they should invade Syria saying, “Violence and war are never the way to peace.” The current state of Syria was discussed at length, with the Vatican issuing a statement of support of the peace talks. Both men said the talks, ‘covered broad topics’ and were a ‘comprehensive conversation.’

Kerry hinted that there are plans in the works for a meeting between Obama and Pope Francis who have both expressed interest in addressing extreme poverty on a global scale. Pope Francis has further caught the attention of United States conservatives who criticized him for his focus on addressing poverty.

In a statement outlining his vision for the future of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said, “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open, there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor…may we never abandon them.”

Pope Francis has brought positive change with his plan to address global poverty. It is a welcome and refreshing change to have the religious leader proclaim that Catholics should focus more on helping the poor. The pope leads a religion with an estimated 1.2 billion people across the world.

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Christian Today, USA Today, The Washington Post
Photo: Religion News Service