More big-ness

Procrastination and distraction are upon me, so posts of more substance have been patiently simmering away, awaiting an eventual stir. It will come.

But for now, at various sites I have come across the image below, which provides a more compelling impression of the size of Africa. It’s huge! Really, really big. Look how many countries a guy called Nathan Yau has been able to calculate would fit in it (using good old km²). He did not include Australia, but I guess America was more familiar to most people who might see this graphic. Click the photo to see all the detail.

Click on picture for full size.


At the other end of the scale Jeffrey Winter has produced a graphic in the same vein, though to show how tiny is the Vatican City State, the world’s smallest sovereign nation. It would fit into Gibraltar several times over! Again, click the picture to make it bigger.

Click on picture for full size.

Interestingly, Africa’s population was reckoned at 1.03 billion in 2011. Most of them are members of a myriad of largely disunited tribes, the boundaries of which rarely coincide with the boundaries of the nations that make up the continent. The Vatican City State had a population in the same year of 832. But it is the spiritual capital city for the Catholics of the world in communion of mind and heart with the Pope, who numbered, in 2010, 1.19 billion.

The little old Vatican packs a bigger punch in some respects that the immense continent of Africa. This was a point Josef Stalin obviously did not get when he sarcastically asked how many divisions the Pope could field. None of course. But Stalin’s communist bloc of Russia and eastern Europe is relegated now to the pages of history. It managed to endure about 73 years. The Pope in his Vatican is still going strong, coming up to 2000 years and counting. Hell cannot prevail against it.


6 thoughts on “More big-ness

  1. Very poor theology. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Our Lord had never imagined the Vatican, a human creation. The Vatican City is not the Church, thank God, nor is the Holy See, two quite separate entities, and neither of them are the Church. This is too sloppy, Father!


    1. Very poor reading skills! I never equate the Church with the Vatican. I explicitly mention those in communion with the Pope, who by extension can be said to form a people, a nation, the New Israel in fact. A little less fundamentalism in your reading would help. My theology is rarely sloppy, however imperfect it might be, and in this case it accords with Catholic teaching very well indeed.



  2. Have you seen the letter in the Guardian Weekly of 19.10.12 from a countryman of yours, Bryan Furnass of Canberra? It reads:

    From my random brousings through the Bible I have naively assumed that the central tenets of the teaching of Jesus Christ were love and humility, quite opposite to the view expressed by Hans Kueng that the Roman Catholic Church is besmirched by corruption, pomposity and addiction to hierarchical rules and material wealth.
    Unlike the world’s other great belief systems, the Vatican enjoys political power far beyond its size, having been created as the world’s smallest state in 1929 through the influence of the then Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini, who was more noted for his brutality than his piety. Whilst millions of laity and priests receive solace and supernatural comforts from Christ’s teachings, there is much distress about church dogma, which forbids the ordination of women, insists on priestly celibacy, deplores homosexuality and yet takes inadequate action against priestly paedophilia.
    The Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, together with Hinduism, the philosophies of Buddhism and Daoism, and many atheists have developed ethical principles which, if followed co-operatively, could repair that potentially fatal global deficiency disease:lack of wisdom. A start might be made if the restless stirrings within the Catholic church described by Kueng could lead to the conversion of the Vatican to Christianity in its original sense.


    1. No I had not seen this letter – I don’t read the Guardian. This rather confirms me in that choice!

      Needless to say, I doubt very much whether he knows much about “Christianity in its original sense”, given he has only made “random browsings through the Bible”. Love and humility are pretty important in our Lord’s eyes, but they are to be properly understood in their biblical context and not in the saccharine secular travesty of them. Love and obedience for Jesus always involve self-sacrifice, putting the other first, and obedience to the will of the Father. And let us not forget the first words of the gospel proclaimed in the Gospels – “repent”!

      That there continues to this day, as there ever has been, a tension between the institution and the message it promotes and protects invalidates neither the message nor the Church. Our Lord founded a Church, gave it authority and a mission. These endure despite the failings of its members (and let’s be honest: it is not just the hierarchy that is weak in its humanity). In fact these failings remind us all of the need of ongoing conversion, from the top of the Church to the its bottom. Pope Benedict would be the first to acknowledge this; indeed, he has.

      Christianity does not aim to “repair that potentially fatal global deficiency: lack of wisdom”; it seeks to save human beings from the mess they have made of their lives and their world, a mess than began with the very first humans.

      And do people still read Hans Küng? Goodness, there’s nowt so queer as folk…..



    2. > “The Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, together with Hinduism, the philosophies of Buddhism and Daoism, and many atheists have developed ethical principles which, if followed co-operatively, could repair that potentially fatal global deficiency disease:lack of wisdom”

      Sounds more like a recipe for spiritual and moral schizophrenia to me!

      The problem with all this is that there are parts of these philosophies and belief systems which are just irreconcilable. For example, the Catholic Church teaches about the sanctity of life from conception, yet the “ethical principals” of atheist Peter Singer lead him to conclude that both abortion and infanticide can be morally fine and dandy. And this leads to an increase in wisdom how exactly?!

      It sounds like he’s advocating a watering down of everyone’s religions and philosophies until we reach a vanilla “Let’s just be nice” philosophy and moral relativism. I wonder what St. Peter and Paul, the followers of “Christianity in its original sense”, would think about that…


      1. Schizophrenia indeed! In fact what the writer suggested has a name: syncretism. Needless to say it has no place in the Christian revelation nor the Christian Church.

        When we accept everything we stand for nothing. And so, at the Last, nothing will stand for us.


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