Monday, March 19, 2012

Vatican's Secret Archives turn 400 years old

Within the walls of Vatican City is stored one of the most important treasures in the world, the Vatican's Secret Archives.

Only a limited number of people can access documents kept here by the Catholic Church. It's free to gain access, but only academics and historians are allowed and they must request authorization from the Vatican.


The Vatican Secret Archives began under Pope Paul V. It was officially opened 400 years ago on January 31 in 1612. It's called “secret” from its Latin name “secretum” meaning “private”. Since it opened, it's become the private archive of the popes.

In 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte took over 3,000 documents to Paris. After his fall from power, the files over time made their way back to the Vatican. Although during these transfers, many valuable documents were lost, some of which were from the fifth century.

Today, 400 years after its creation, the archive has over 50 miles of shelving, filled with books, papal bulls, decrees and encyclicals that cover twelve centuries of history. Among its corridors, one can find documents like the parchment of acquittal of Clement V to the Templars, from August of the year 1308, and details from the trial of Galileo, as well as the request for a marriage annulment by England's King Henry VIII.

To celebrate it's 400th anniversary, the exhibition “Lux in Arcana” has been created. From March to September, visitors to Rome can find 100 documents from the Vatican's Secret Archives on display in the Capitoline Museums.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vatican says number of Catholics, priests, bishops worldwide increased

The number of Catholics in the world and the number of deacons, priests and bishops all increased in 2010, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics.

At the end of 2010, the worldwide Catholic population reached 1.196 billion, an increase of 15 million or 1.3 percent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate, which was estimated at 1.1 percent, said a statement published March 10 by the Vatican press office.

Catholics as a percentage of the global population "remained stable at around 17.5 percent," it said.

The statement reported a handful of the statistics contained in the 2012 "Annuario Pontificio," a yearbook containing information about every Vatican office, as well as every diocese and religious order in the world.

Officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and its Central Office of Church Statistics presented the first copy of the 2012 yearbook to Pope Benedict XVI during an audience March 10.

Detailed statistics in the yearbook are based on reports from dioceses and religious orders as of Dec. 31, 2010.

The percentage of Catholics declined slightly in South America from 28.54 percent to 28.34 percent of the regional population, and dropped considerably in Europe from 24.05 percent to 23.83 percent. The percentage of Catholics increased in 2010 by just under half a percentage point in Southeast Asia and Africa.

The Vatican said the number of bishops in the world increased from 5,065 to 5,104; the number of priests went from 410,593 to 412,236, increasing everywhere except Europe.

The number of permanent deacons reported -- 39,564 -- was an increase of more than 1,400 over the previous year. 97.5 percent of the world's permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe.

The number of men joining a religious order showed "a setback," the Vatican said, with an increase of only 436 male religious worldwide in 2010.

The number of women in religious orders fell by more than 7,000 in 2010, despite showing a 2 percent increase in both Asia and Africa. At the end of the year, Catholic women's orders had 721,935 members.

The number of seminarians around the world showed continued growth, from 117,978 at the end of 2009 to 118,990 at the end of 2010.

In the last five years, it said, the number of seminarians rose more than 14 percent in Africa, 13 percent in Asia and 12.3 percent in Oceania. Numbers decreased in other regions of the world, particularly Europe, which saw a 10.4 percent drop in the number of seminarians between 2005 and 2010.