Vatican celebrates 75 years as sovereign state

 Today is a holiday in the Vatican as the tiny city-state celebrates its 75th anniversary as a sovereign entity. February 11, 2004, marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts on the same date in 1929. Signed in the Popes' Room of the Lateran Palace by Benito Mussolini, the representative of the King of Italy, and 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. This agreement ended the famous "Roman Question" concerning the relationship between the Roman Pontiffs and the state of Italy. Popes for many centuries had temporal as well as spiritual power, exercising authority over the fairly extensive Papal States. When these States were annexed by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870, the Popes demanded compensation and this was achieved only in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran 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 in 1984 at which time 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 "juridico-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." In 1954 Vatican City was registered in the List of the World's Patrimony. Vatican City, covering an area of 108.7 acres (44 hectares) is located on the "mons vaticanus," the so-called eighth hill of Rome, and 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 "scavi" or pre-Constantine necropolis under the Vatican grottoes, and the city's gardens, available through reservations-only tours. However, Vatican City State is also home to centuries-old buildings, including the Apostolic Palace, where Roman Pontiffs reside, chapels and churches, a seminary, mosaic factory, fire department, the famed Vatican Library and the Secret Archives, stores, a pharmacy, petrol stations, a printing office and medical centre. Add to this acres and acres of gardens, dotted with pathways, stone benches, statuary and many decorative fountains. Vatican City State's estimated 700 inhabitants include people of many different 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, 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. Source: VIS

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