Friday, December 17, 2010
The Space Pope
Following the Exchange, which destroyed hundreds of old cities, including Rome, the Catholic Church was in a state of exile. Like hundreds of millions of survivors of the nuclear war of 1 A.L. (2090 by the Church’s own calender), surviving bishops and cardinals were forced into life as nomads. Like a majority of those hundreds of millions, many surviving leaders of the Church died during the first years of the Lunar Calender. Unlike those refugees, the Church had a means of escape. For over a century before the Exchange, humanity had a permanent presence on Luna. During the 2070s, Pope Pius XV appointed the first Bishop of Luna, based in Fort Recife. During the following decade, Catholicism grew slowly on the largely secular moon.
After surviving devastation that wracked Earth completely untouched, a small percentage of Lunatics turned towards religion for answers. Various fundamentalist orders were prohibited from the moon, even before the Exchange, due to the dangerous nature of living on Luna and the volatility such sects can cause. During the first decade of the Lunar Calender, the only denominations on the moon that had enough members to be counted were the Catholic Church (largely in Dutch, Italian and American colonies), the Swedish Orthodox Church (in Swedish colonies), the Lutherans in the German colonies, Shia Islam in the lone Iranian outpost, and a handful of Buddhist monasteries and shrines scattered across all but the Iranian and German settlements.
What drew the Church away from Earth was not religion upon the moon, but the safety and stability that was now found on the airless world. The irony of safety on a world that could kill you with one false step was not lost upon Giovanni Campelli, Bishop of Luna. With so many elder cleric dead on Earth, the surviving College of Cardinals elected Campelli as Pope Benedict XVI. The new Pope decreed, that instead of wondering a rapidly cooling Earth, that the administration of the Church would relocate to Luna. The Church operated out of offices in Gatestown for two decades while funding was raised to create an independent habitat of its own.
New Vatican, called the Holy Crater, was built in a ten kilometer wide crater near the anti-orbitward terminator near the equator. New Vatican took nine years to complete, with most of the money going into programming the nanites, and most of the time taken by actually assembling the dome, molecule by molecule. Unlike fundamentalist sects, the Church did not view nanotechnology as good or evil, but just another tool of man. They did, however, frown upon taking them into the body. Nor did they use it in the habitat’s life-support system; instead depended upon the artificial ecology, supported by carbon-dioxide scrubbers.
By 34 A.L., the Cathedral of St. Benedict stood in the middle of the carter. The Cathedral is best known having one face of its structure made completely out of glass. The reason for this is symbolic. The side made of glass is also the side that faces Earth, which never moves from its spot above the horizon. When mass is held, all eyes face the Pope, and the blue marble of the homeworld which hovers above and behind him. Eyes tend to focus on Earth, rather than the gray landscape below. Though the cathedral has a window of real glass, the habitat’s dome is made of a considerably stronger transparent material.
New Vatican has a small permanent population, mostly of Church officials, but also technicians to keep the equipment running. Priests tend the aeroponic farms as well as the parklands. Thousands of pilgrims from across the moon visit New Vatican annually. The Church uses its new secure bastion to further its own goals of aiding the destitute on Earth. By the time St. Benedict’s Basilica was consecrated, the Atomic Ice Age gripped Earth.