• Vatican •
Part of Speech: Proper noun
Meaning: The sovereign city-state ruled by the Pope of the Catholic Church.
Notes: Today's Good Word originated as an adjective (the Vatican City, the Vatican Hill) but today is used as a proper noun. At a time when the is being removed from country names (Ukraine, Netherlands), it seems to have survived on the Vatican, as it survives on the sun and the moon. Moreover, it does so in all languages: Città del Vaticano (Italian), Ciudad del Vaticano (Spanish), and Cité du Vatican, all of which mean "City of the Vatican".
In Play: Today Catholics and non-Catholics alike mourn the passing of a religious innovator. John Paul II was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the first Polish cardinal elected to the head of the Roman Catholic Church. In his homeland, he had followed in the footsteps of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski (1901-1981) in fighting the Polish Communist Party to defend the Church's place in Polish society. The Polish Catholic Church was much more resistent to Communism than the Orthodox Church of Russia. It played a key role in the downfall of the Soviet bloc, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.
Word History: The origin of the word Vatican is shrouded in as much mystery as the place itself. It was used simply as the name of a hill in Rome, Mons Vaticanus "the Vatican Hill". The Latin word vaticinor means "foretell, prophesy" from vatis "poet, teacher, oracle". This suggests that the original hill was the location of an oracle, a place where high priests communicated with the Roman gods. Thus the name reflects a long history of contact with spiritual powers.
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