So here\’s a question in The Guardian we can answer

The Guardian asked the Vatican\’s representative in London, the papal nuncio, archbishop Antonio Mennini, why the papacy continued with such secrecy over the identity of its property investments in London.

Hm, gosh, I wonder

How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini\’s millions……the church\’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini……Since then the international value of Mussolini\’s nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m……..The surprising aspect for some will be the lengths to which the Vatican has gone to preserve secrecy about the Mussolini millions……..The Mussolini money was dramatically important to the Vatican\’s finances…….The Mussolini investments in Britain are currently controlled……..While secrecy about the Fascist origins of the papacy\’s wealth might have been understandable in wartime,

Because, you know, if they were clear and open about it then some shit stirrer is going to write a piece bandying about \”Mussolini\”, \”Millions\”, \”Fascist!\”

All of this quite apart from the fact that this was not all about Mussolini. It was the settlement of the Risorgimento, signed up in the Lateran Treaty.

Effectively the Kingdom of Italy compensated the Pope for having nicked all the Papal Territories back in 1870. And negotiations had been going on since about then as well.

You could, indeed I would, make a rough equivalence between this and the recent Czech compensation of the churches. The Commies and others knicked all the land. Eventually, compensation was paid for having done so.

16 thoughts on “So here\’s a question in The Guardian we can answer”

  1. Since the Donation of Constantine has long been proven to be a fraud, the compensation was of doubtful wisdom. At least the Lombards took northern Italy fair and square by, um, traditional means.

  2. Fun fact: I once met the papal nuncio to the UK. Not the current one.

    It was you who started talking about fascists.

  3. That’s disingenuous, Tim. As you must know, the Lateran Treaty was the price for the Church’s endorsement of Mussolini.

    Tim adds: That’s disingenuous too. Back in 1871 the Italian State (by which time the Kingdom of Italy was the de facto and de jure State) offered compensation to the Pope for the loss of the Papal States. In 1929, the Kingdom of Italy (still the de facto and de jure State) actually coughed it up.

    There’s no difference in law here between Prussia demanding cash off Nap III, The Allies off Germany in 1918 and innumerable reparations and payments over history.

    That Mussolini was PM does indeed allow people to get all oogie boogie about Fascism. But it was a pretty straighforward international transaction.

  4. If Italy had compensated , say, the Church of Scotland over something or other I dare say it would be a “a pretty straighforward international transaction.” But the Roman Catholic Church? Come now.

  5. I think the pope actually failed to nobble a referendum a couple of years ago. Usually he speaks and Italy votes. Yes, it really does work that way.

  6. dearime (#4), you’re forgetting how new Italy is.

    Starting in the 1840s and more or less finishing in 1870 the Kings of Sardinia (mostly Victor Emmanuel) gobbled up other countries to form Italy, but before then there were various independent countries, including the Papal States.

    So the idea of an international transaction between different bits of what we currently call Italy is prefectly sensible.

  7. “dearime (#4), you’re forgetting how new Italy is.” No I’m effing not: having attended a much better school than Tim did, I read Trevelyan on Garibaldi when I was 14. Harrrumph. I’m mocking the idea that, in dealings between Italy and the Papacy, Italy’s interest would be pursued by individuals whose allegiances were only to that side. I have also pointed out that the Bishop of Rome’s claim to the Papal States was based on a simple fraud. Mind you, I suspect that his claim to be the successor to Peter is fraud too. Not that that is terribly relevant here, it seems a pity to let the opportunity pass.

  8. A shocking hatchet job of an article, even by the Guardian’s very low standards. It also seems to be utterly ignorant of the eventual denouement of Italy under Fascist rule (Anyone looking for an expose of Italian fascism and the holocaust should read an excellent book: “All or Nothing’ by Jonathan Steinberg, a supervisor of mine at Cambridge) especially after the Germans were forced to invade in 1942.

    It’s as though the writer were some kind of GCSE history student, with a simplistic ‘two legs bad’ view of history – maybe the article was a surreptitious attempt to mark ‘Orwell Day’? I’d be interested to see any equivalent attempt to profile the many thousands of pounds that various Guardian luminaries are thought to have received from the USSR prior to its collapse (over a far longer timescale) but that will be the day I see a squadron of pigs flying….

  9. “especially after the Germans were forced to invade in 1942”: you win this week’s prize for the most journalistic use of “forced”.

  10. #9 Dearieme – Fair enough, although I would say they couldn’t very well under the circumstances allow a ‘Trojan Horse’ (which Italy would have been) to be used to facilitate an Allied Invasion of their territory through Austria. Sadly you cannot retract comments, so I should have simply said invaded – I stand corrected.

  11. VP: the nature of the compulsion aside, don’t you mean 1943?

    Tim: there were 58 years between the annexation of Rome and the signing of the Lateran Treaty. There were two days between the signing of the treaty and Pius XI’s endorsement of Mussolini as “the one whom Providence has sent us”.

    The Guardian is entirely justified in describing the 750m Lire paid under the treaty as “cash handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929”

  12. PaulB

    Input error – Only just noticed it – 1943 was the Badoglio proclamation of course, once more cursing the edit function or lack thereof…

  13. “On 30 April 1849 the Republican army, under Garibaldi’s command, defeated a numerically far superior French army. Subsequently, French reinforcements arrived, and the siege of Rome began on 1 June. Despite the resistance of the Republican army, the French prevailed on 29 June. On 30 June the Roman Assembly met and debated three options: surrender, continue fighting in the streets, or retreat from Rome to continue resistance from the Apennine mountains. Garibaldi made a speech favoring the third option and then said: Dovunque saremo, colà sarà Roma.[5] (Wherever we may be, there will be Rome).
    Giuseppe and Anita Garibaldi fleeing to San Marino.

    A truce was negotiated on 1 July, and on 2 July Garibaldi withdrew from Rome with 4,000 troops.”

    What is dearieme babbling on about?

  14. “You could, indeed I would, make a rough equivalence between this and the recent Czech compensation of the churches. The Commies and others knicked all the land. Eventually, compensation was paid for having done so.”

    This is not correct. There is continuing controversy about the way that claims for compensation by the Catholic Church appear to have been prioritised in the Czech Republic, Poland, and elsewhere in Central Europe over the claims of private individuals.

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