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The Roman Empire and the Vatican

By Vatican.com 5/22/2018

The Vatican(Vaticano), or the Holy See, is the seat of authority of the Roman Catholic Church. But what exactly is the connection between the Roman Empire and the Vatican or the Roman Catholic Church in its entirety? Well, rangingfrom its language to its structure and, of course, its name, the Roman Catholic Church borrowed many characteristics from the Roman Empire and in some way skept many aspects of Ancient Rome alive until today.

The Roman Catholic Church is referred to as such because its adherents are in communion with the Pope of Rome, leader of the Catholic Church. Ever since the Christianization of the Roman Empire, in the fourth century AD, the Catholic Church has used the language, terminology and structure of the Roman Empire. The Latin Language was the language of Ancient Rome. The Catholic Church and its leader,based in the city of Rome itself with theologians and bishops spread in other areas then ruled by the Roman Empire, used Latin as their first language ofc ommunicating and writing, as the language for issuing documents and,ultimately, as the primary and exclusive language used for prayer. This persevered in Church and Vatican History until the late 20th century when, during Vatican II, the Church officially allowed other languages to be used in liturgy.

The relationship between Ancient Rome and the Holy See is deeper than simply the use of Latin. The City of Rome, the “center of the world”, became the center of Western Christianity. The Roman Empire became the Model for its structure. The Pope, who resides in Rome, is also called the Supreme Pontiff (Pontifex Maximus). This title, which can be found on official Vatican Documents and on Church and Vatican buildings around Rome(often shortened to “Pont. Max.”) was actually an official title used by the head of the college of priests in Ancient Rome. Even the famous, and of course not-Christian, Julius Caesar held the title of Pontifex Maximus in Rome. You can also notic ethe similarity of the College of Priests of the Roman Empire and the Vatican’s College of Cardinals who elect the Pope.

The organizational structure of the Church and its base in Città del Vaticano (Vatican City), is also built upon Ancient Roman models. In the Roman Catholic tradition, territorial references are divided into Parishes,Dioceses and Provinces. These divisions and subdivisions of large areas,districts and neighborhoods which are still in use today by the Church, are territorial references used in Ancient Rome for secular purposes. In its early days, the Western Church was seeking growth in a world speaking Latin and very importantly, a world in which the titles of rulers and religious leaders were in Latin. By adopting these titles and structures, Catholic Christianity offered the people of Ancient Rome, people who gave great importance to traditions and history,something to relate to. Roman Catholicism offered them a new faith in familiar terms.

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