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Lateran Treaty - 1929

When the House of Savoy completed Italian unity in 1870 by the occupation of Rome, depriving the Holy See of all political authority in the process, a bitter feud followed between the State and the Church. The Popes imprisoned themselves in the Vatican and refused to recognize the reigning dynasty. In 1929 Mussolini ended this old feud by the Lateran Treaty signed on February 11th. 1929. With the Pope at the height of ecclesiastical power, response to the loss of the Papal States was reactionary. In the face of changed circumstances, Pius IX and his immediate successors had considered themselves to be "prisoners of the Vatican." This remained the case until Mussolini and Pope Pius XI agreed to the Lateran Treaty in 1929.

During the unification, Italian troops had occupied all the papal territories of central Italy, without anyone in Italy shedding a drop of blood to uphold the sovereignty of the Holy See. With the Lateran Pacts, the Vatican no longer subjected the King to excommunication for the conquests of the last century. Upon ratification of the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the papacy recognized the state of Italy, with Rome as its capital. By the Lateran Treaty, the Vatican City State, where the Pope is temporal ruler, was established as a territorial endowment and the headquarters for the Holy See. The Lateran Treaties officially put an end to strife between Vatican and Quirinal. A number of additional measures were agreed upon. Article 1, for example, gave the city of Rome a special character as the "centre of the Catholic world and place of pilgrimage." Article 20 stated that all bishops were to take an oath of loyalty to the state and had to be Italian subjects speaking the Italian language.

In return for Papal recognition of the Italian State and dynasty, il Duce paid the Church a large indemnity, recognized Catholicism as the state religion, and accepted the Pope as temporal sovereign of the Vatican and its immediate surroundings, thereafter known as the State of Vatican City.

A vital point of the Lateran agreements was the Pope's assent to Mussolini's demand that priests and members of religious orders abstain from active politics. This eliminated a dangerous source of potential opposition to the Fascist regime. But even this concession did not bring complete harmony. There were recurrent controversies between Church and State over education, the activities of the Catholic Action movement, and finally the racial laws. In each case the Vatican was forced to give way and accept the extension of the State's jurisdiction over activities formerly controlled by the Church.

The Catholic Church became the National Church of Italy with countless special privileges of state protection for the clergy and religious orders. Catholic instruction was introduced into all schools and Canon Law marriages recognised by the State. Only bishops acceptable to Mussolini were to be appointed, and all bishops were required to take the following oath to the Fascist State: "I swear and promise neither to join in any agreement nor to be present at any meeting which may injure the Italian State and public order, and that I will not permit my clergy to do so. Taking heed for the good and interest of the Italian State, I will seek to avoid any harm that may threaten it."

The money paid by the Italians to the Vatican under the Lateran Treaties, in compensation for its finally abandoning its rights over the Papal States, has been "wisely and rewardingly invested". The payments in Italian banknotes and government bonds, were to a nominal value of about 19 million at that time. Pope Pius XI set up a special body to invest this money throughout the world, and the capital's increase is "believed to have been spectacular". [By the 1960s estimates of its exact holdings were many and varied, but the Catholic Herald gave a "conservative one" that the Holy See controlled between 7 and 10 per cent of the Italian economy. Among its interests in Italy were believed to be banks, a spaghetti factory, the Italian airlines, a big property company, public utility firms, and a film company.]

Soon King Vittorio Emanuele and Queen Elena visited the Pope. But there remained points of difference. Disagreements arose between Mussolini and the Pope in the years immediately following the signing of the Lateran Pact. The rivalry between the two dictators, one in the Church and the other in the State, broke into an open quarrel in 1931. Chief among the causes for this quarrel was the matter of interpreting who should have supreme control over education. The Pope insisted that the priests should virtually control the whole life and curriculum of the school. Intended for American consumption as well was the following dictum of the Pope: "The full and perfect right to educate does not belong to the State but to the Church, and the State cannot impede or restrict it in the exercise and fulfilment of its right or confine it to the subsidised teaching of religious truth."

Not until Italy's Duce visited the Vatican, in February 1932, were they regarded as settled. The Lateran Treaty, between the Italian state represented by Mussolini and the papacy represented by Pius XI exempted some of the Vatican's Italian investments from taxation. However, at the end of 1962, the Italian Government of the Left-Centre imposed the notorious Cedolare, a tax upon dividends of a kind similar to that already levied in several other countries, and payable by all Italians as well as by foreigners with investments in Italian concerns. However, exceptions were made in the case of the subjects of a number of slates with whom reciprocal bilateral arrangements had already been concluded. The Holy See claimed exemption under this clause, under the 1929 Treaty and, in particular, on account of the special status accorded to the Vatican City, as also because the Vatican during this period was the only institution that provided free assistance to the poor. With the signing of the concordat of 1984, Roman Catholicism was no longer the state religion of Italy. This change in status brought about a number of alterations in Italian society. Perhaps the most significant of these was the end to compulsory religious education in public schools.

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