Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Stato della Città del Vaticano....

It's an oldie, but always a goodie, that the Romans believe the SCV on the Vatican's license plates means "Se Cristo Vedesse" -- "If only Christ saw this."

No, it doesn't really mean that, but the Holy See's ability to make those plates owes its existence to this day.

On 11 February 1929, the Holy See and the Italian government signed the Lateran Pacts, which gave the Popes the 108.7 acres of the Vatican -- and certain extraterritorial elements -- as neutral, sovereign territory so that it may exercise inviolate "the right of exercising its moral and spiritual power."

The Pacts, of course, solved the "Roman question" which, from 1870 when the Papal States were amalgamated into the newly-formed Kingdom of Italy, so vexed the Popes who served across that timespan that they declared themselves "prisoners of the Vatican." The signatory of the Italian government was Benito Mussolini, then the prime minister. The representative of the Holy See was Pietro Gasparri, cardinal, Secretary of State and great-great-great uncle of this writer.

The Pacts were revised in 1984 and have come up again of late for further review. Today, however, Vatican Independence Day was marked by protestors meeting in the heart of Rome. As Robert Mickens reported in today's edition of The Tablet, the group meets every year on this date in the shadow of the Bocca della Verità statue and marches toward the monument to Giordano Bruno, a Dominican burned for heresy in the 1300s, seeking the removal of the church's influence from the Italian political sphere. It seems they're particularly incensed by the neoconservative leanings of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the papal vicar for Rome, who has a particularly prominent national voice in Italy as the papally-appointed head of the CEI, the Italian episcopal conference.

Above is a photograph of today's protest. The sign within camera view translates as "Ratzinger and Ruini, dangerous interlopers."

Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi