Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Lateran Treaty
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

concordat between the Holy See and the kingdom of Italy signed in 1929 in the Lateran Palace, Rome, by Cardinal Gasparri for Pius XI and by Benito Mussolini 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.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Lateran Treaty
Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

A treaty concluded between the Holy See and the kingdom of Italy on 11 February 1929, settling the 'Roman Question', which had resulted from...

Full text Article Lateran Treaty
Philip's Encyclopedia

(1929) Agreement between Italy and the Vatican . The Italian government recognized the Vatican as an independent sovereign state with the...

Full text Article Pius XII
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Pius XII, photograph by Yousuf Karsh. Credit:Karsh/Woodfin Camp and Associates (born March 2, 1876, Rome, Italy—died Oct. 9, 1958, Castel Gandol

See more from Credo