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July 10, 2006

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Columnists in The B.C. Catholic

Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo

Marie Luttrell

Fr. Vincent Hawkswell

Peter Vogel
(Internet on-online)

Alan Charlton
(Movie Reviews)

Paul Matthew St. Pierre
(Book Reviews)


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The Popes had a long wait for the Lateran Pacts

By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo

For 60 long years after the seizure of the papal states, Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and Benedict XV lived in absolute seclusion before talks between the government of Italy and the Roman Pontiff were reopened by Pope Pius XI.

The result of the new negotiations, the Lateran Pacts, refers to the treaty, the financial agreement, and the Concordat between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy which resulted in the creation of the independent Vatican City State.

After the seizure of the states in 1870, the Popes continually protested against the unjustified Law of Guarantees which Italy wanted to impose on the papacy, and Italy was unwilling to cede any territory necessary to proclaim a sovereign state. Pope Pius XI was elected on Feb. 6, 1922, the same year that fascism triumphed.

The Pope was determined to end the bitter situation. It took courage for this iron-strong Pope from Milan to appear on the front balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to impart his blessing Urbi et Orbi (to Rome and to the World). Today we take the Pope’s balcony appearance for granted, but it was not so at that time.

Benito Mussolini also needed to end the hostilities with the Catholic Church. Discussions that finally succeeded began in August 1926 between the Italy’s representative and Francesco Pacelli, legal adviser to the Holy See and brother of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, then Secretary of State and later elected Pope Pius XII. The meetings lasted two and a half years and were held in unviolated secrecy.

The Lateran Treaty had 27 articles that definitively and irrevocably settled the "Roman Question," the conflict between the papacy and the kingdom of Italy (1861-1929). The treaty recognized the Holy See’s absolute, visible independence and sovereignty with the right of international and diplomatic relations with other states. The Vatican issues passports to all cardinals and prelates who exercise special missions.

Thanks to Cardinal Tisserant, I received one such diplomatic passport which I used for accompanying him to numerous countries. My last diplomatic mission was in 1990, to obtain recognition by the United Nations of the monuments that belong to the Vatican as cultural patrimony under the protection of the World Heritage.

The Lateran Treaty affirmed the Catholic religion as the sole religion of the state. Vatican City was created an independent state with its own territory over which the Holy See could exercise exclusive, absolute, sovereign jurisdiction, free from interference by the Italian government.

The same agreement admitted the right of Vatican City to issue coinage and stamps, to send and receive diplomatic representatives, and to govern as citizens those residing within its borders. Italy guaranteed to the tiny state of only 108.7 acres an adequate water supply.

The government had to link the railway system to the train station in the Vatican, and make telegraph, telephone, and postal connections with the outside world. Today, with the new technology of satellites and wireless phones, these concessions seem unnecessary. Eighty years ago they were vital necessities.

The Pope was held to be sacred and inviolable. Offences against him, by deed or word, were held punishable under Italian law and similar in gravity to the offences against the king of Italy.

Some properties outside the Vatican enclosure were retained by the Holy See. These included three basilicas: St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome; St. Mary Major; St. Paul; other important churches; and Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence. The Holy House at Loreto, the Basilicas of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony at Padua, and the catacombs were also given up to the Vatican.

The financial settlement was immensely greater than the one previously proposed by the Law of Guarantees, which wanted to grant an annual sum of 3,224,000 lire. With the new agreement, Italy had to compensate the Holy See for the loss of its states by paying 750 million lire in cash and 1 billion lire in 5% negotiable government bonds.

Finally, the concordat, an agreement between the Pope and the Italian government on Church matters, was signed to regulate the status of religion and the Church in Italy, to guarantee to the Church free exercise of its spiritual power and free, public exercise of worship.

The government promised to respect the sacred character of the city of Rome and to allow freedom for bishops, priests, and faithful to attend religious functions.

Although unanimous enthusiasm greeted the signature of the pacts in Italy and elsewhere, the rigidity of fascism threatened to break down completely, especially when Catholic Action, so dear to the heart of Pius XI, became engaged in political rather than religious activities. The Pope criticized Mussolini, and the dispute became so acrimonious that, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts, the Pope called all Italian bishops to Rome.

The bishops were extremely perturbed and feared a clash between the Pope and Mussolini would end in a religious war. Many bishops preferred to leave the country and escape to Switzerland.

Then, as he prepared his speech for the next morning to reproach Il Duce for violating the Concordat, the Pope died suddenly in the middle of the night. This was before the outbreak of World War II. Pope Pius XI was interred under St. Peter’s grotto. He was one of the most significant and most able of the Popes of modern times.

Msgr. Lopez-Gallo’s columns are available in two volumes for $20 each from St. Andrew’s Church Supply, 275 E. 8 Ave., Vancouver, V5T 1R9, or toll-free at 1-800-663-7161. Proceeds will go to Hogar de Nazareth Orphanage in Mexico, which he sponsors.


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