Vatican City and Italy

This thought crossed my mind because of this thread.

What is the actual legal situation between the Vatican and Italy? Is the Vatican on some sort of “perpetual lease?” Could Italy (imagine a scenario in which a strongly pro-secular government is running things) confiscate the Vatican lands and declare them “Italian?”

I imagine there is a clear cut answer on the legal side of it.

What about if a strongly pro-secular government simply sent a letter to the Vatican saying, “We consider the land holdings of the Vatican City to be sovereign Italian soil, and we can no longer permit your possession of them. You have until x/x/xxxx to move your offices and property out or you will be evicted”?

Vatican City is what’s left of the “Papal States,” a self-governing area of Italy up until Italian unification. Historically, then, Vatican City actually predates Italy.

The Vatican also signed the Lateran Treaty in 1929, which established the sovereignty of Vatican City.

Italy could, of course, invade and take over the Vatican, but there’s no reason for it.

Up until 1860-1870, the Pope was the absolute ruler of Central Italy, in a nation called the Papal States. When Italy was unifed, the Italy army fought the Pope’s armies and took control of all the land the Pope controled. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 betwee Italy and the Pope created Vatican City, which is a fully soverign and indepdent nation. If Italy were to annez Vatican City, it would be the equlivant of invading a soverign nation.

This is exactly what happened in 1870 when the new Kingdom of Italy invaded and annexed the Papal States. Vatican City was de facto part of Italy until the Lateran Treaties of 1929, although the Pope did not recognize it.

If you’re going to invade VC, take out San Marino while you’re at it.

That’s why the Vatican keeps the Knights of Malta around – they’re poised for a counterattack on Sicily on a moment’s notice.

Actually, they’re the perfect example of the difference. From the days when they held Cyprus, or Malta, and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, the Sovereign Military Order of At. John of Jerusalem (Hospitalers) of Malta has fallen on hard times. Thiough they still exist, they hold no sovereignty over any land anywhere. Their territories, a couple of villas in suburban Rome, are not their territory, but owe sovereignty to Italy, and belong to the Knights as landowners in fee simple and under their rule by the principle of extraterritoriality, much like the Cuban territory at Guantanamo belongs to the U.S. The underlying sovereignty is Italian on the one hand, Cuban on the other; the governing body holding it from Italy or Cuba is, respectively, the Knights and the U.S.A.

In contrast, the Holy See/State of Vatican City (they’re not synonymous, but it takes a good international lawyer to clearly define the difference) holds the thousand acres of Vatican City in full sovereignty. Granted that Italy could take it over with little effort, such an action would be an aggression different only in degree, not in kind, from Iraq’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait, or Nazi Germany’s 1939 overthrow of Cesky.

There is, however, a nitpicky correction needed, of the idea that Vatican City is a remant of the former, much more extensive Papal States. The 1860-70 reunion of Italy conquered totally the Papal States. Pius IX fled to Castle Gandolfo, living in self-proclaimed exile. To regularize relations with the Holy See, which still had extensive influence in Italy, Mussolini negotiated the Lateran Treaty, which gave the Pope sovereignty over the territory called Vatican City. Between 1870 and 1929, the Pope was in the same state as the Knights of Malta presently are: certain holdings informally granted extraterritoriality (Castel Gandolfo being a good example) but no land held in sovereignty.

In passing, Lichtenstein gained full independence in 1806 in something similar – prior to that date, they were a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, no different from Bremen, Oldenburg, or Saxe-Altenberg. But the point was that the House of Lichtenstein held from the Emperors, not from the Habsburg Archdukes of Austria, even though they were the same people. So when the H.R.E. was dissolved in 1806, its suzerainty over Lichtenstein, a legal fiction, vanished, and the Princes of Lichtenstein owed allegi8ance to – no one! Hence they were independent.

I should point out I’m well aware of the existence of the Papal States (anyone who ever played the Medieval War games knows the “fun” of invading them), and the Lateran Treaty. I guess what I should have clarified my position a question a bit more:

Could Italy argue that based on certain “norms” of international law that the Lateran Treaty isn’t really valid, and that by all rights the Vatican City is part of Italy. I mean, didn’t the Lateran Treaty technically get signed by Benito Mussolini? I wonder if the Italians could argue since the treaty was “forced” upon them by a fascist dictator it is not valid and binding in perpetuity.

The treaty was signed by Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III, so technically it was authorized by the legal head of state, the king. However, if a country really wishes to abrogate a treaty, they can usually find some pretext or excuse. Really this is a political question rather than a legal one, and would be hard to envision a scenario under present conditions in which Italy would find it feasible to do so.

IIRC, while it’s always said, as a fact of practical politics, that Mussolini made the treaty with the Vatican, in point of fact, just as ‘officially’ it’s Queen Elizabeth II making treaties for her United Kingdom (or for Canada, New Zealand, and her other domains), it was Victor Emannuel, King of Italy, who was the ‘official’ treaty maker, as sovereign of the Kingdom of Italy. Although it was effectively a Fascist dictatorship, the legal fiction was that the King was head of state and Mussolini only head of government, I think with the title of Premier, though he was of course much more commonly known as Il Duce.

The Vatican state consists of 108 acres in Rome. There are public parks that are larger - the Villa Borghese/Pincio, for example. Is it possible to consider, given the expected international outcry, that Italy would want to take ove an area the size of a public part, and which brings in millions of Euros every year, just because it is there? I think not. The scenario you present is unrealistic, I would venture. Dammit, even the Germans in WW II left the Vatican inviolate.

Let’s see…Italy is about 95% Catholic, and a democracy. Somehow I don’t see a “strongly pro-secular government” lasting more than 15 minutes after sending such a letter as proposed in the OP.

Not the equivalent. It would actually be invading a sovereign nation.

Actually, if I’m not mistaken Italian governments tend to be largely secular, subject to a touch of church influence. After a spell of Church pressure elicited a response of anticleariclism, as opposed to neutrality, Church and State evolved a modus vivendi where each tolerates a limited amount of what they consider negative in the other, up to certain limits.

There are also churches and palaces in Italy that belong to the Holy See that have extraterritorial status

I was drunk.

Well, a sovereign state anyway. Not really a “nation”.

And you don’t think invasion is just a tad over those limits? :smiley:

My advisors, a Mr. Rove and a Mr. Rumsfeld, tell me not. :stuck_out_tongue:
(Note: The above is intended as a lighthearted Cecilian smartalecky response to Silenus, not as a prohibited political zinger in GQ.)

Actually Mussolini was not a dictator in the same ranks as Hitler, Franco, Castro or Stalin. He had a near monopoly on power, but was never able to exercise absolute control like the others mentioned. He was one step below them. Kind of like Tito, who by the late 60s had solid control over Yugoslavia but his grip slipped where he no longer had the control he did and had to make compromises to keep Yugoslavia together in the 70s.

By not removing the King, Mussolini had left an opening for people to get to him and in reality he never did achieve the total power as the other dictators. He came close but as you saw his rule was based on success. As soon as he started to fail, like his lousy showing against France, there was already open talk of getting rid of him. That never would’ve occured in the other authoritative states.