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Bilateral Relations


Bilateral Relations

Relations between Italy and the Holy See have become stronger  over the years.

The Roman Question

porta pia

The history of relations between Italy and the Holy See is marked by the events that led to the unification of the italian peninsula during the Risorgimento time. Relations with the Pontificial State lived a phase of tension due to the impossibility to reconcile the unitary demands by the Kingdom of Italy and the defense and independency claims on Rome brought by the papacy.

The old controversy known as the "Roman Question" concerned the role of Rome, elected as the capital of the future Italian State and, at the same time, temporal seat of the Pope's power. Once the secret talks started by Cavour in order to achieve a pacific resolution of the Question failed, Italy stopped Garibaldi's attempt to march on Rome in 1867.

Afterwards, with the breach of Porta Pia in 1870 and the official designation of Rome as the capital of the Kingdom, in the following year, italy annexed the territories over which the Pope had exercised his temporal power, putting an end to the centuries-old history of Papal States. As a result, there was a period of institutional freeze, during which Pope Pius IX and his successor did not recognize the Kingdom of Italy.

In an attempt to restore ties with the Holy See, the government approved the "Law of Guarantees", thus defining the relation between the Kingdom of Italy and the Church. Notably, the law set forth the Pontiff's prerogatives, including the inviolability of the person, the sovereign honors, the liberty of postal and telegraph communications, the right of diplomatic representation, the right to dispose of armed guards in defense pf the Vatican places and, lastly,  it granted to the to the Pope an amount equivalent to more than three million Italian liras for the maintenance of apostolic buildings.

The provisions of this law were never accepted by Pope Pius IX, as they were considered as the result of unilateral act by the Kingdom of Italy rather than the fruit of a real negotiations between the two parties. Moreover, the Pontiff exhorted the catholics not to participate to political life of the Kingdom of Italy  with his non expedit in 1874.

The Lateran Pacts: the Concordat and Treaty of 1929

patti lateranensiThe agreements of mutual recognition between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See signed on February 11th 1929 better known as the Lateran pacts, opened the way for the normalization of the diplomatic relations, after sixty years of controversies finally untying the knot of the “Roman Question”.
The Pacts, negotiated by judge Domenico Barone for the Italian side and , for the Vatican side, by Francesco Pacelli, lawyer and brother of the coming Pope Pius XII, were signed in the palace of St. John in the Lateran after three years of talks between the then prime minister Benito Mussolini and the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Gasparri.
The Lateran Pacts enabled Italy and the Holy See to set up diplomatic relations based on the principle of mutual independence and sovereignty, by recognizing to the Holy See “absolute independence” for the fulfillment of its noble mission in the world”.
The Pacts consisted of two documents, a treaty- accompanied by four annexes-and a Concordat.
The Treaty aimed at establishing the independence of the Holy See through the institution of the Vatican City State as a sovereign country subjected to its own exclusive jurisdiction. The person of the Supreme Pontiff was declared “sacred and inviolable” and the Kingdom of Italy recognized to the Holy See the right to accredit Ambassadors and send its own legates (right of active and passive legation), prerogative that had been exercised de facto also before the adoption of the Treaty. By the signature of the Treaty, Italy established for the first time its own diplomatic representation accredited to the Holy See, and this one, in its turn, set up its own papal nunciature to Italy. Article 12 of the Treaty decreed the status of apostolic nuntio as Dean of the Diplomatic Corp, thus recognizing a common international costume later codified by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation of 1961.
The Concordat allowed to regulate the relation between the States and the Catholic Church, by guaranteeing “the free and full exercise of the Spiritual Power of the Catholic Church”. It recognized Catholicism as the State religion and introduced the teaching of Catholic religion in schools.
The introduction of the Pacts in Article 7 of the Republican Constitution was the crucial step for bilateral relations. The Holy See gained recognition of its independence in the pursuance of its own spiritual and moral mandate, as well as all the sovereign prerogatives related.
For its part, Italy subordinates the discipline of the Pacts to the respect of the supreme principles of the constitutional law.

The Concordat of 1984

revisione del concordatoAfter a long phase of negotiation between the Italian Government and the Holy See, which started in 1976, the Parties came to the revision of the Concordat of 1929, in order to harmonize the relations between State and catholic Church with the principles of the Constitution and the developments which unfolded from the SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL.
The epochal “AGREEMENT OF VILLA MADAMA”, signed by the Prime Minister Bettino Craxi and the Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of State, adopts a new text that completely substituted the Concordat of 1929, by providing a framework of fundamental principles aimed at regulating the mutual independence and sovereignty of Italy and the Catholic Church. Italy recognizes the historical value of religious culture by guaranteeing the teaching of Catholic religion along with the official recognition of private religious schools and introduces, in line with the principle of freedom of conscience, the optional teaching of Catholic religion in State, schools (art.9).
Moreover, the next text set forth the removal the rule according to which bishops were called upon to take an oath before the Italian Head of State as stated in art. 20 of the Concordat of 1929.

The Diplomatic Relations Today

benedetto xvi e zanardi landiThe bilateral relations between Italy and the Holy See are historically stable. On the international level, Italy and the Holy see benefit from a singular turning on a wide range of priorities, with special regard to issues as protection of religious minorities and right to freedom of belief. Moreover, the Vatican looks at Italy as a natural interlocutor of the promotion of the interreligious dialogue, especially in a moment of high tension on the global scene, namely in North Africa and the Middle East.
Italy and the Holy See cooperate closely also in the framework of international organizations. Indeed the holy See participates in several organizations, intergovernmental bodies and international programs as an observer state: such is the case of the United Nations, the UN High Commissioner for refugees-where the Holy See is a member of the Executive Committee-, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and many others. For its part, the Vatican City State adheres to several international intergovernmental organizations, such as the Universal postal union and the international Telecommunication Union.
At the bilateral level, Italy and the Holy See keep in close contact with each other. Traditionally, immediately after his assignment, the President of the Italian Republic makes an official visit to the Holy Father. The last official visit was paid by the President Sergio Mattarella on April 18th 2015. In addition, every year in February, this embassy hosts the high-ranking meeting on the occasion of the anniversary celebration of the Pacts of 1929 and the Modifications of 1984 to the Lateran Concordat, an event which is attended by the highest offices of the Italian Republic.
In this context of durable relations, Italy and the Holy See started in May 2015 new bilateral consultations on the subject of foreign policy and began a new course for financial relations thanks to the Convention on fiscal issues, signed in April 2015.
The latter agreement, more specifically, is intended to ensure wider financial transparency, by sharing financial and tax information between Italy and the Holy See, in line with the relevant international guidelines and standards. It takes into account the peculiar geographical situation of the Vatican City State, as well as the rules and principles of the Lateran Treaty, by establishing an administrative cooperation framework for fiscal purposes, to ensure that all those who carry out financial transactions in Vatican respect tax obligations.
The dialogue with the Holy See remains open on several issues related to the implementation of the Concordat.

The Role of the Diplomatic Protocol of the Italian Republic

In the framework of friendly bilateral relations between Italy and the Holy See, the Embassy of Italy to the Holy See cooperate with the Diplomatic Protocol of the Italian Republic in order to facilitate the completion of protocol and administrative issues, related to the diplomatic missions to the Holy see, by virtue of the fact that their seats stand on Italian soil.
The Holy See keeps diplomatic relations with Italy through Apostolic Nunciature to Italy, Italian reference of the Vatican diplomatic service. The current Apostolic Nuncio to Italy and San Marino is Msrg. Adriano Bernardini.