History of the Vatican City

From Academic Kids

The Holy See's diplomatic history began in the fourth century, but the boundaries of the papacy's temporal power have shifted over the centuries. Popes in their secular role ruled much of the Italian peninsula, including Rome, for more than a thousand years. In the middle of the 19th century, the Popes held sway over the Papal States, including a broad band of territory across central Italy. In 1860, after prolonged civil and regional unrest, Victor Emmanuel's army seized the Papal States, leaving only Rome and surrounding coastal regions under papal control.


Loss of the Papal State

In 1870 Italian king Victor Emmanuel II captured the city of Rome and declared it the new capital of Italy, thus ending papal temporal power. Pope Pius IX and his successors disputed the legitimacy of these acts and proclaimed themselves to be "prisoners" in the Vatican. In addition, the Popes of that time developed negative attitutes towards the growing secularization of society in Europe, which was mostly evident under Pope Pius X, who in 1904 severed diplomatic relations with the French government for introducing secular education in schools and on September 1, 1910 introduced compulsory Oath Against Modernism for all priests. During the First World War, at the insistence of the Italian government, the Allied governments decided to exclude Vatican participation in the postwar peace settlement. On August 1, 1917, Pope Benedict XV issued a five point peace plan, which was ignored by the international community.

Mutual Recognition between the Holy See and the Italian Government

Three Lateran Treaties resolved several outstanding issues between a series of popes and the Italian state in 1929. They established the independent state of Vatican City out of the former Papal States and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. The Italian Government and the Holy See signed three agreements:

  • A treaty recognizing the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See and creating the State of the Vatican City.
  • A concordat defining the relations between the government and the church within Italy; and
  • A financial convention providing the Holy See with compensation for its losses in 1870.

Second World War

Relations between the Holy See and the Fascist powers were deteriorating even before the Second World War. In 1931 the Italian government dissolved the Catholic youth organizations. The Concordat signed with the German government on July 20, 1933 was not observed by Berlin, and in 1937 Pope Pius XI condemned the German government for religious persecutions. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, the Holy See government proclaimed neutrality. Following the German occupation of Rome on September 10, 1943, Holy See officials were apprehensive of possible damage to Vatican territory by the warring parties. During the final months of the war in early 1945, Holy See officials tried unsuccessfully to mediate for early German and Japanese surrender.

After the War

After the Second World War, the Holy See began a process of reconciliation with the secular society. During the 1950s, Pope Pius XII introduced many aspects of modern science in church life. These efforts reached their climax during 1962-1965 at the Vatican II council. In 1984, a concordat between the Vatican and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion. On January 10, 1984 diplomatic relations were reestablished with the US government (broken since 1867). On December 30, 1993, the Holy See government concluded a basic agreement with the Israeli government. Present concerns of the Vatican include the death of Pope John Paul II, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the adjustment of church doctrine in an era of rapid change. Over 2.3 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith. The Vatican opposed the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, sending Roger Etchegaray as envoy to persuade Washington, DC to refrain from war.

For further reading:

  • Martin Quigley, Peace Without Hiroshima, 1991
See also : Vatican Cityfr:Histoire de l'état du Vatican

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