Vatican City Poised for Its 75th Anniversary

1929 Lateran Pacts Settled the Roman Question

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2004 ( Vatican City this week celebrates its 75th anniversary as a sovereign entity.

Wednesday marks the anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts in 1929. Signed in the Lateran Palace by Benito Mussolini, the representative of the king of Italy, and by Cardinal Pietro Gasbarri, the secretary of state of Pope Pius XI, the pacts were a triple agreement: a political treaty, a financial convention and a concordat.

The agreement ended the famous Roman Question concerning the relationship between the Roman pontiffs and the state of Italy, the Vatican Information Service noted.

Popes for many centuries had temporal as well as spiritual power, exercising authority over the extensive Papal States. When the Kingdom of Italy annexed these states in 1870, the popes demanded compensation. This was achieved only in 1929 with the signing of the pacts.

Among other things, the Lateran Pacts established the sovereign Vatican City State, made Catholicism the official religion of Italy, and regulated Church-state relations. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the revision of the concordat, when it was declared that Catholicism would no longer be the official state religion.

The 1929 pacts also established the international character of the Holy See. It is the Holy See which is recognized in international law and which carries on diplomatic relations with other nations.

In this regard, Vatican City State was instituted as a “juridical-political reality historically needed to identify and ensure the absolute and visible independence of the Apostolic See in the exercise of her lofty spiritual mission in the world.”

Vatican City, covering 108.7 acres (44 hectares), is located on the Mons Vaticanus, the so-called eighth hill of Rome. It is bordered by the Leonine Walls and by the circular travertine strip in the pavement that joins the two arms of the Bernini colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

Visitors are familiar with Vatican City through their tours of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, the pre-Constantine necropolis (the “scavi”) under the Vatican grottoes, and the city’s gardens, available through reservations-only tours.

Vatican City State is also home to centuries-old buildings, including the Apostolic Palace, where popes reside. There are chapels and churches, a seminary, mosaic factory, fire department, the famed Vatican Library and the Secret Archives, stores, a pharmacy, gas stations, a printing office and medical center. Acres of gardens are dotted with pathways, stone benches, statuary and decorative fountains.

Vatican City State’s estimated 700 inhabitants include people of many nationalities, though most are Italian. At least 400 have Vatican citizenship, including those prelates who are heads of dicasteries in the Roman Curia. All cardinals have automatic Vatican citizenship but preserve their original citizenship.

The head of state is the Supreme Pontiff, who has full legislative, executive and judicial power. Representation of the state and its relations with other states is reserved for the Supreme Pontiff, who exercises it through his Secretariat of State.

Both Vatican City State and the Holy See enjoy international recognition and are members of, or hold permanent observer status in, international and intergovernmental organizations. They also participate in international conferences with permanent observers and adhere to the respective conventions.

Vatican City State is comprised of the Vicariate of Vatican City, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, technical, economic and health services; general services; the Vatican Observatory; Archaeological Studies and Research; and the Pontifical Villas.

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