An expression referring to the politicoreligious conflict between the papacy and the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1929).
Origins. Italian political unification dates from the work of Mazzini and the foundation of Young Italy (1831, but the Roman Question arose when the Italian Chamber of Deputies proclaimed Rome as capital of the new kingdom, though the city was then part of the states of the church (March 27, 1861). Only then did the termination of the papal temporal power become an unavoidable and urgent question for European chanceries. The Austrian Empire confessed its inability to aid Pius IX (1846–78), and during the ministry of the Lutheran Count Friedrich von Beust (1867–71) pursued a friendly policy toward Italy. England, Russia, and Prussia favored Italy for religious and political motives. Pius IX's sole protector was napoleon iii, acting under pressure from French Catholics; but after France's defeat at Sedan (Sept. 1, 1870), the pope lacked all international help. This made it possible for Italy to resolve the problem in a radical and violent manner by invading and occupying the Eternal City (Sept. 20, 1870).
The peaceful solutions, favored by many moderate Italians, which would have continued papal temporal power on a more restricted scale, were always disdainfully rejected by Pius IX because he considered it impossible for him to dispose of territory belonging to the Church, of which he was merely the custodian. He also foresaw that concessions to the Italian state would inevitably stimulate further demands and spoliations and lead to the inglorious doom rather than to the salvation of his 1,000-year-old state. The final attempts at peaceful solution, implying Italian annexation of Rome except for the Leonine city, made by the government from Florence (September 1870) met the pope's adamant refusal. So did the proposal by gladstone, supported by the Austrian chancellor Beust, of convoking a European congress, because Pius IX feared that this gathering might sanction spoliation while partially restoring his temporal power. Thereupon Pius IX issued the encyclical Respicientes ea omnia, excommunicating all who had ordered or executed the usurpation, but without specifically mentioning victor emmanuel ii (Nov. 1, 1870).
Law of Guarantees. Without delay the Italian government sought to reassure Catholics throughout the world of its intent to ensure free communication between the Holy See and the diplomatic corps, the hierarchy, and Catholics in general. Details of the manner in which this promise was to be kept appeared in the Law of guarantees (May 13, 1871). This unilateral solution, which contained no permanent definition of papal rights, was solemnly declared unacceptable by Pius IX (May 15), who voluntarily became a prisoner in the Vatican, spurned the financial offer, and abstained from any act that might have implied, even indirectly, acceptance of the spoliation of his states. leo xiii (1878–1903) maintained the same intransigent position and repelled all attempts at conciliation.
Progress toward Solution. Developments in France, notably the rupture of diplomatic relations with Rome, the abolition of the Concordat of 1801, and the passage of the law separating Church and State, along with mounting social problems and the growth of socialism, induced pius x (1903–14) to seek a rapprochement with Italy. This led to a softening of the nonexpedit policy, thus authorizing Italian Catholics to participate in political elections (June 11, 1905), and to the Gentiloni pact (1913), which encouraged Catholics to support constitutional candidates favorable to conciliating the Church. World War I accentuated this trend, because of Catholic civil loyalty and the Holy See's scrupulous neutrality, which frustrated a tremendous German press campaign by declaring through Cardinal gasparri, Secretary of State to benedict xv (1914–22), that it awaited "the appropriate settlement of its situation not by foreign arms but by the triumph of those sentiments of justice which fortunately spread ever more widely among the Italian populace in conformity with its true interests" (June 28, 1915).
After World War I, Msgr. Bonaventura Cerretti, Secretary of State for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, discussed the Roman Question in Paris with Vittorio Orlando, the Italian Premier, and presented to him a solution composed by Cardinal Gasparri, that would have attributed to the enclosed Vatican the character of a sovereign state (May 1919). This led to a projected concordat, but the fall of Orlando's cabinet (June 1919) ended these discussions. In 1919 Italian Catholics founded under the leadership of Don Luigi sturzo the Popular party. Alfredo Rocco declared in Parliament: "It does not seem to me impossible to find a point of agreement which conciliates the teachings of the Holy See concerning complete independence with the domestic and international needs of the Italian state" (June 21, 1921). Official state mourning for a pope, decreed for the first time upon the death of Benedict XV, and the solemn blessing imparted by pius xi (1922–39) from the external loggia of the Vatican after his election symbolized the changed climate, which continued to improve.
The lateran pacts (1929), which set up vatican city as a fully independent and sovereign state, concluded a concordat regulating Church-State relations, arranged a financial settlement, abrogated the Law of Guarantees, and definitively and irrevocably terminated the Roman Question, as stated in article 26 of the treaty.
Bibliography: Documents. h. bastgen, Die römische Frage, 3 v. (Freiburg 1917–19). p. pirri, ed., Pio IX e Vittorio Emanuele dal loro carteggio privato, 5 v. (Rome 1944–61). n. miko, Das Ende des Kirchenstaates, 2 v. (Vienna 1961–64). a. piola, La Questione Romana nella storia nel diritto (Padua 1931). Literature. g. mollat, La Question romaine de Pie VI à Pie IX (2d ed. Paris 1932); EncCatt 10:400–403. l. m. case, Franco-Italian Relations (1860–1865): The Roman Question and the Convention of September (Philadelphia 1932). s. jacini, La politica ecclesiastica italiana da Villafranca a Porta Pia (Bari 1938). s. w. halperin, Italy and the Vatican at War (Chicago 1939). Schmidlin v.2, 3, 4. a. c. jemolo, La questione romana (Milan 1938); Church and State in Italy, 1850–1950, tr. d. moore (Philadelphia 1960). v. del giudice, La Questione romans e i rapporti tra Stato e Chiesa fina alla Conciliazione (Rome 1947). f. engel-janosi, Österreich und der Vatikan, 1846–1918, 2 v. (Graz 1958–60). s. lener, La formazione dell' unità d'Italia e i cattolici (Rome 1962). The Roman Question: Extracts from the Despatches of Odo Russell from Rome, 1858–1870, ed. n. blakiston (London 1962). r. mori, La Questione romana 1861–65 (Florence 1963). r. aubert, Le Pontificat de Pie IX (Fliche-Martin 21; 2d ed. 1964).