Safe and sound

(CNS/Nancy Wiechec)The Vatican is the safest and most stable country on Earth, according to a British-based risk assessment organization. 

Jane’s Information Group analyzed 235 nations and independent territories around the world, taking into account each country’s political makeup, social and economic progress, security threats and its relations with other states. The result is that out of a perfect score of 100, Vatican City State tallied 99, tying with Sweden and Luxembourg.

Canada and the U.S. came in 23rd and 24th respectively. The United States lost points (it scored an average of 93 out of 100) in part because of the country’s high number of citizens who possess firearms and the amount of illegal drugs entering its borders.  

Christian Le Miere, managing editor of Jane’s Country Risk, which assembled the data, reportedly admitted it was “a little unfair” to let the Vatican nab the top slot since “it did not face the sort of threats and economic pressures of other countries,” wrote the UK’s TimesOnLine March 25.

While it does have excellent (and colorful) security forces as well as an extremely stable form of government, the Vatican isn’t exactly crime free. Statistically it has one of the world’s highest per capita crime rates. However, as a past CNS story reveals:

For the 108-acre independent state surrounded by Rome, the context is that while the number of full-time residents is fewer than 500 some 2,700 people work there and some 10 million people visit each year.

In 2002, the Vatican City State court dealt with 608 crimes — more than one for each resident, a ratio well above anything recorded anywhere by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes.

Nicola Picardi, the court’s promoter of justice or prosecutor, said the vast majority of the crimes were petty thefts.

“With the large number of faithful going into St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums each day, naturally there are a few who occasionally join the crowd and lift a wallet or two,” said Gianluigi Marrone, a court judge.

“Every once in a while, the police catch the thief,” Marrone told Catholic News Service.

Only a handful of major crimes stand out in recent Vatican history:

  • The 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. 
  • The 1998 Swiss Guard murders-suicide when a young Swiss Guard shot and killed the Guard’s commander and the commander’s wife before taking his own life.
  • Last year, a 25-year-old Vatican police cadet died in an apparently suicide after he shot himself in the head in the bathroom of his Vatican barracks.
  • And just recently, the Vatican court realized that it had to start drafting its own anti-drug laws dealing with the possession and sale of illegal drugs after a Vatican employee was caught with 87 grams of cocaine.  

The Vatican does have its own prison, but it is rarely used — another indicator that this tiny territory, while not perfect, is as enviably safe and orderly as the UK intelligence group’s assessment. 

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