Pope Francis

Written on 15 December 2020

Perhaps the world’s most intriguing and complex royalty resides in the planet’s smallest nation: the Vatican City, over which Pope Francis reigns as absolute monarch. The Vatican actually presided over most of the Italian peninsula for almost 1,000 years as the Papal State, until almost all of its land including Rome was conquered by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. Neither side wanted to spark a holy war, so over the course of six decades, five Popes were confined to life within St Peter’s and the Papal residency, refusing to acknowledge the nation of Italy as a legitimate country. That was until Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty in 1929, which, in exchange for recognising Italy as a legitimate nation and absolute neutrality in matters of politics and warfare, officially gave the land of Vatican Hill to the Holy See.

The Holy See (which is also a legally registered corporate entity but let’s keep this simple) actually refers to the throne and jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. So, as ruler of the nation of Vatican City, the elected Pope is also the King of the world’s only democratic absolute theocratic monarchy. The Vatican has everything that an ordinary nation would require, its own bank and currency, police force and jails, stamps, and car license plates, all within an area that can be circumnavigated by foot in about forty minutes. It also has its own citizens, albeit only around 500 that are all male thanks to the rules of the Catholic church. This means that citizens are anointed by the King, the Pope, whilst they are in the service of the Vatican, rather than relying upon the more traditional method of procreation as a means of transferring citizenship.

Pope Francis

The current ruler of the Vatican City is Pope Francis, the first monarch to hail from the Americas or the Southern Hemisphere, and even the first from outside of Europe to sit upon the throne of the Holy See since the 8th century. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he took his Papal name from Saint Francis of Assisi, who has come to be associated with patronage of animals and the natural world, much in keeping with the Pope’s focus during his reign. He is a fierce advocate for action on climate change and has been a vocal critic of high-capitalism, consumerism, and overdevelopment. A former bouncer, caretaker, and chemist in a food laboratory, he is known for his relaxed approach to the Papacy, his humility, and as a fairly revolutionary figure in the church’s history, advocating for LGBT rights and relaxing the strict Catholic rules to bring them more in line with the realities of the modern world. He even released a prog-rock album in 2015 that received fairly good reviews.

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