Lateran Treaty

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Lateran Treaty,

concordat between the Holy See and the kingdom of Italy signed in 1929 in the Lateran Palace, Rome, by Cardinal GasparriGasparri, Pietro
, 1852–1934, Italian churchman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He taught canon law at the Catholic Institute in Paris (1879–98) and was apostolic delegate thereafter in South America.
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 for Pius XIPius XI,
1857–1939, pope (1922–39), an Italian named Achille Ratti, b. Desio, near Milan; successor of Benedict XV. Prepapal Career

Ratti's father was a silk manufacturer. He studied in Milan and at the Gregorian Univ., Rome, and was ordained in 1879.
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 and by Benito MussoliniMussolini, Benito
, 1883–1945, Italian dictator and leader of the Fascist movement. Early Career

His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher.
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 for Victor Emmanuel III. One of the important negotiators was Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. In 1871 the unity of Italy was perfected by restricting the papal sovereignty to a few buildings and awarding to Pius IX and his successors an annual indemnity for the lost Papal States. The Roman Catholic Church never recognized this arrangement and never accepted the indemnity, and the subsequent popes considered themselves prisoners in the Vatican. The problems involved were called the Roman Question, and they were solved by the treaty. It states that Roman Catholicism is the only state religion of Italy and that Italy recognizes the new state called Vatican City as fully sovereign and independent. Italy guarantees Vatican City public services and protection and recognizes as parts of it certain buildings not actually inside Vatican City. The Italian government will punish crimes committed within Vatican City, when so requested, and the Holy See will extradite to Italy persons accused of acts recognized by both parties as crimes. As to the reestablishment of the canon law in Italy, matrimony is a sacrament, and banns must be published; nullity of marriages is a question for the Church, while separations are adjudicated by the state. Religion is to be taught in primary and secondary schools, and the Holy See guarantees that Roman Catholic organizations will abstain from politics. The Italian government is to consider the person of the pope sacred and inviolable. The Holy See, pursuant to its perpetual mission of peace, will remain apart from temporal competitions of other states and from international congresses for peace, unless a unanimous appeal is made to its mission; the Holy See will use its moral and spiritual power to prevent warfare when it sees fit. The Holy See announced in the treaty that it had its proper liberty, that the Roman Question was closed, and that it recognized the kingdom of Italy under the house of Savoy. The Lateran Treaty remained in effect after the monarchy was abolished at the end of World War II. However, a concordate put into effect in 1985 modified the treaty, most importantly stating that Roman Catholicism is no longer the state religion of Italy. The sovereignty of Vatican City is still recognized.

Lateran Treaty


a treaty between the the Italian state and the Vatican, defining the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church and its position in the Italian state. It resulted in the legal settlement of conflicting claims and the elimination of the Roman Question, which had existed since 1870.

The Lateran Treaty was signed on Feb. 11, 1929, in the Lateran apostolic palace (Palazzo Laterano). It consists of an agreement, a financial convention, and a concordat. The agreement recognizes Catholicism as the “sole religion of the state” of Italy (art. 1) and the “sovereignty of the Holy See in international affairs” (art. 2); it provides for the formation of a Vatican state, the boundaries of which are defined by a map attached to the agreement (art. 3). A number of articles regulate administrative issues, the status of the Vatican citizenry, and the status of the diplomatic corps attached to the Holy See. The financial convention stipulates payment by Italy of 750 million lire in 5 percent securities to the Holy See (art. 1); in exchange the Holy See renounces the financial claims against Italy that had resulted from the formation of the Italian state (art. 2). The concordat defines the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church in Italy. The state declares as nonworking days ten church holidays, as well as Sundays (art. 11); the bishops pledge to take an oath of loyalty to the head of state (art. 20). Other articles provide for involving the clergy on a broad scale in the Italian educational system and for recognizing the Catholic Action movement. During the fascist dictatorship in Italy (1922–43) the treaty secured the Vatican’s support of the fascist regime.

Even today the treaty defines the legal relations between the state and the Catholic Church in Italy in accordance with Article 7 of the Constitution of 1947 of the Italian Republic.

Democratic forces in Italy are leading a struggle for revision of the treaty. In 1969 the Chamber of Deputies adopted a law permitting divorce; this law, in effect, abolished Article 34 of the concordat.


Enciclopedia del Papato. Catania, 1961.


Koval’skii, N. A. Katolitsizm i diplomatiia. Moscow, 1969.
Korovin, E. A. Katolitsizm kak faktor sovremennoi mirovoi politiki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Sheinman, M. M. Vatikan mezhdu dvumia mirovymi voinami. Moscow, 1948.