To mark the 80th birthday of Vatican City State , Church historian , Professor Gerald Fogarty SJ bring us an overview of the Roman Question

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Vatican City is small but great

Despite its small size, Vatican City State is great in other aspects, according to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Benedict XVI’s secretary of state said Thursday at the opening of the congress “A Small Territory for a Great Mission” held in Rome’s Lateran palace, that the Vatican is “small but great; the greatest in the world from any point of view.”

The event, organized by the Governorate of the Holy See, marks the 80th anniversary of the Feb. 11, 1929, accords that recognized the independence and sovereignty of the Holy See, created the Vatican City State, and defined the civil and religious relationship between the government and the Church in Italy.

The congress will end Saturday with an audience with the Pope.

Cardinal Bertone said the anniversary “is an appropriate moment to recall the lofty objective of its existence and action, to evaluate how this objective has been applied in the course of the past eight decades, and to attempt to intuit the future modalities that the state’s mission might assume.”

On reviewing the history of Vatican State, the cardinal recalled in particular the work of Pope Pius XI: “This great Pontiff is the real creator and founder of Vatican City State.”

The signing of the Lateran Pacts put an end to the so-called “Roman question” that began in 1870 when Italy invaded and took possession of Church properties.

Cardinal Bertone referred to Pius XI, saying that Vatican State “is, in fact, the result of his tenacity, realism, culture and clairvoyance, demonstrated on so many other occasions and in face of many serious problems that marked the Church and society during his pontificate.

World War II

The secretary of state also reviewed the main historical events the small nation has addressed since its birth, the first being the Second World War (1939-1945).

He noted that during the war the Holy See carried out “an intense action to promote peace and charity, but with notable limitations.”

“Let us reflect on the fact that diplomats accredited to the Holy See of countries at war with Italy had to leave Rome and that the ecclesial, diplomatic and charitable action of the Holy See was conditioned by the control of the Italian state,” noted the cardinal.

The cardinal also pointed to the works of charity that Pius XII was able to carry out in Europe during the war, which offered aid and help to put into contact “those whom the war had separated.”

Cardinal Bertone noted that Rome was under German occupation from September 1943 to June 1944: “Vatican City State was surrounded by a political-military power, the German Reich, with which the Holy See had not a few open conflicts.”

The cardinal also mentioned the places of refuge that served to shelter many victims during World War II: the Lateran’s Major Pontifical Seminary, the Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, as well as monasteries, convents, institutes and parishes of Rome.

He also mentioned the important events that have taken place in Vatican State during its 80-year history: The Second Vatican Council, the synods of bishops, the celebrations of the jubilee years, especially the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Cardinal Bertone noted in a special way the funeral of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, “which brought to Rome the top political authorities of the world and massive crowds.”

(Zenit.org)