Lateran Pacts

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Lateran Pacts refer to the treaty, financial agreement, and concordat between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, signed Feb. 11, 1929, in the Lateran Palace.

Diplomatic Preliminaries. Subsequent to the seizure of the states of the church (1870), succeeding popes protested against this procedure as unjustified and refused to accept the Law of guarantees. The Italian government persisted in its unwillingness to cede to the papacy any territory or to permit international mediation. Immediately after his election (Feb. 6, 1922) pius xi indicated his eagerness to terminate the long, embittered situation by appearing on the front balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to impart his blessing, a gesture unknown since 1870. With the triumph of Fascism (1922) Mussolini soon gave proof of a similar desire. Proposals to reform ecclesiastical legislation were introduced (1925) by the minister of justice, Alfredo Rocco, but were withdrawn when Pius XI declared that he could not recognize statutes "unless preceded by proper negotiations and agreements with the Holy See and Us."

Discussions that finally succeeded began on Aug. 5. 1926, between Domenico Barone, an official representing Italy, and Francesco Pacelli, legal adviser to the Holy See (and brother of the later Pius XII), authorized by the pope as Vatican representative. Their numerous meetings until 1929 were held in unviolated secrecy. Pius XI, who followed the proceedings very attentively and personally supervised all details, insisted from the start on "recognition of the absolute sovereignty of the pope over the territory to be assigned to him." His interests throughout were motivated clearly by religious considerations, as those of Mussolini were by political ones.

Treaty. The treaty, consisting of a preamble and 27 articles, definitively and irrevocably settled the roman question. It recognized the Holy See's absolute, visible independence and sovereignty, even in international relations. Italy affirmed the Catholic religion as the sole religion of the state, although restrictions were not imposed on other religions. vatican city was created as an independent state with its own defined territory over which the Holy See could exercise exclusive, absolute, sovereign jurisdiction, free of interference from the Italian or other governments. The treaty also admitted the right of Vatican City to issue coinage and stamps, send and receive diplomatic representatives, and govern as citizens those with fixed residence within its border. Italy guaranteed to the tiny state (108.7 acres) an adequate water supply, a link with the Italian railway system and the construction of a station within Vatican City, and connections with the telegraph, telephone, and postal services of the outside world. Various details of relations between Italy and Vatican City were arranged in other clauses.

The person of the pope was held to be sacred and inviolable. Offenses against him by deed or word were held punishable in Italian law and similar in gravity to offenses against the king. Central corporate entities of the Church were also exempted from all governmental interference.

Italy recognized the Holy See's full proprietary rights over the patriarchal basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul; also over several other churches and buildings in Rome and over the papal palace at castel gandolfo. These also were granted extraterritoriality and immunities were given to foreign embassies, although they were part of Italian territory.

The Holy See declared its desire to remain aloof from temporal disputes between nations and from international congresses convoked to settle such disputes, unless the contending parties jointly appeal to its mission of peace. As a result Vatican City is always to be considered neutral and inviolable territory. Aircraft flights of any kind over it were prohibited. The Holy See recognized the Kingdom of Italy under the Savoy dynasty with Rome as its capital. Both parties declared the Law of Guarantees abrogated.

Financial Settlement. By a special convention constituting an integral part of the treaty (although in an appendix to it), Italy undertook to compensate the Apostolic See for its loss of the States of the Church and possessions therein. In view of Italy's economic situation, the pope reduced his legitimate claims for indemnity and settled for 750 million lire in cash and 1 billion lire in 5 percent negotiable government bonds.

Concordat. The concordat, with a preamble and 45 articles, accompanied the treaty as a necessary complement and sought to regulate in detail the status of religion and the Church in Italy. It guaranteed to the Church free exercise of its spiritual power and free, public exercise of worship. The government promised to prevent occurrences in Rome at variance with the city's sacred character. Freedom was assured the Holy See, bishops, and priests in the exercise of their religious functions. The rights of the Holy See to communicate freely with the Catholic world and to publish instructions in any language were admitted. The Holy See could also select archbishops and bishops in Italy after presenting the names to the government for possible objections. However, newly appointed bishops were obliged to take an oath of loyalty to the state. The ecclesiastical authorities were to award benefices, but Italian benefices must be given to Italian citizens; and the government was to receive previous notice of appointments to parochial benefices. The government abolished the exequatur and placet. Priests and religious were exempted from military service and jury duty. The basilicas of the Holy House at Loreto, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony at Padua and their administration were ceded to the Holy See, which was also given control of the catacombs in Rome and elsewhere in Italy.

The state recognized the civil effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It also agreed to have religious instruction given in public elementary and secondary schools by ecclesiastically approved priests, religious, or laymen. Religious associations and confraternities received state approval, as did auxiliary organizations of Catholic Action. Prohibition was renewed against ecclesiastics or religious who might wish to enroll or engage in political parties.

Aftermath. Almost unanimous enthusiasm greeted the pacts in Italy and elsewhere. Negotiations at times had threatened to break down completely, and the final texts embodied compromises. For Italy, however, it was a relief to end a situation injurious throughout the world to the reputation of the kingdom since its foundation. Mussolini's prestige was enhanced. The pacts were for the Holy See a great improvement over the unilateral Law of Guarantees, which gave no assurance of permanence. If Vatican City contained only a minute fraction of the area of the former States of the Church, Pius XI insisted that its size was adequate. The pontiff was especially pleased with the Concordat, by which, he said, "Italy was given back to God, and God to Italy." International guarantees were lacking in the accords, but the pope believed them useless. Early in the deliberations the question of associating other nations with the agreements was discussed and quickly dismissed. Between the date of signing the pacts and that of formal ratification (June 7), Pius XI criticized some of Mussolini's comments, especially those asserting full rights of the Fascist party over Italian youth.

During the Fascist regime many attacks were made against Catholic Action in defiance of the Concordat. The most serious conflict arose in 1931 over the charge that Catholic youth associations were engaging in political rather than religious activities. Basically the difficulties were the result of the Fascist pretension to exclusive control of all youth organizations. Pius XI also condemned the racial laws (1937), imitations of Hitler's, as a breach of the Concordat.

The Lateran Pacts outlived the overthrow of Fascism and the kingdom. After Italy became a republic (1944), the pacts were embodied in the new constitution, with the support of Communist and Socialist as well as of Christian Democratic deputies.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 21 (1929) 209295. a. mercati, Raccolta di Concordati (Rome 1954) 2:84133. Treaty and Concordat between the Holy See and Italy: Official Documents (Washington 1929) has the original text and English tr. of the pacts. f. pacelli, Diario della Conciliazione (Vatican City 1959). c. a. biggini, Storia inedita della Conciliazione (Rome 1942). d. a. binchy, Church and State in Fascist Italy (New York 1941). v. del giudice, La Questione romana e i rapporti tra Stato e Chiesa fina alla Conciliazione (Rome 1947). n. tripodi, I Patti Lateranesi e il Fascismo (Bologna 1959). f. m. marchesi, Il Concordato italiano dell'll febbraio 1929 (Naples 1960).

[a. randall]