With the Lateran Pacts, the papacy “resumed with unusual vigor its functions of a teacher of life and witness of the Gospel, and thus the spiritual government of the Church and its moral influence on the world was louder and clearer than ever before.”
The quotation is from Cardinal Montini, future Pope Paul VI, which Andrea Tornielli, Editorial Director of the Dicastery for Communication referred to, in an editorial in “Vatican News” on Monday, February 11, 2019, the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts (February 121, 1929), between the Italian State and the Holy See.
Tornielli explains that, after the signing of the Pacts, “the Pope became veritable sovereign again, although of a square kilometer of territory: a handkerchief and no more, but which meant hid independence and autonomy from any other authority.” “The Bishop of Rome no longer had, as was the case before, a territorial domain to administer, but the autonomy and sovereignty of this square kilometer represented, at bottom, a posthumous victory of Blessed Pius IX who affirmed, in fact, that to carry out fully his spiritual mission, the Sovereign Pontiff must not be subject to any State,” explains Tornielli.
The Editorial Director of the Dicastery for Communication reviews briefly the history of the signing of the Pacts.
After the capture of Rome in 1870, which put an end to Popes’ temporal power, “for close to 60 years this wound had never healed completely,” he writes. “Montini observed that ‘something was lacking in Italian life (. . . ), nothing less than its interior unity, its spiritual consistency, its patriotic humanity and, consequently, its full capacity to resolve the problems of an unequal society, needing new systems, and restless at the time by agitated and subversive currents. Luckily, we arrived at a satisfying composition with the famous conciliation of 1929 and the affirmation of freedom and democracy in our country.’”
“The negotiations got to the heart in 1926,” explains Tornielli. Pope Pius XI turned to Roman lawyer Francesco Pacelli (brother of Eugene, future Secretary of State and later Pope Pius XII), who had drafted the version of the Treaty.
The Lateran Pacts are made up of two distinct documents, continues Tornielli. “The Treaty that recognizes the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See on creating Vatican City State, and the Concordat, which defines the civil and religious relations in Italy between the Church and the Italian government.”
Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Secretary of State, and the President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, Benito Mussolini, signed the Pacts in the Saint John Lateran Palace. “They were received with a sigh of relief by a good part of the Catholic world, concludes Tornielli.