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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A concordat is a convention between the Holy See and a sovereign state that defines the relationship between the Catholic Church and the state in matters that concern both,[1] i.e. the recognition and privileges of the Catholic Church in a particular country and with secular matters that impact on church interests.

According to P. W. Brown the use of the term "concordat" does not appear "until the pontificate of Pope Martin V (1413–1431) in a work by Nicholas de Cusa, entitled De Concordantia Catholica".[2] The first concordat dates from 1098, and from then to the beginning of the First World War the Holy See signed 74 concordats.[1] Due to the substantial remapping of Europe that took place after the war, new concordats with legal successor states were necessary.[1] The post-World War I era saw the greatest proliferation of concordats in history.[1]

Although for a time after the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965, the term 'concordat' was dropped, it reappeared with the Polish Concordat of 1993 and the Portuguese Concordat of 2004. A different mode of relations between the Vatican and various states is still evolving,[3] often contentiously, in the wake of a growing secularism and religious pluralism in the western world.

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Church teaching

The Catholic church historically claimed not to be bound to one form of government over another, but was willing to work with any kind of government, so long as the rights of God and believers were maintained. Pius XI wrote in 1933:

Universally known is the fact that the Catholic Church is never bound to one form of government more than to another, provided the Divine rights of God and of Christian consciences are safe. She does not find any difficulty in adapting herself to various civil institutions, be they monarchic or republican, aristocratic or democratic.[4]

Church–state dichotomy

From a church–state perspective, the contentions regarding concordats involves two perspectives.

From a Catholic perspective, the Church has the moral and theological right to enter into diplomatic relations with states in order to reach agreements regarding the care of its members residing there. This is the concept of Libertas ecclesiae (freedom of the Church).

However, from a non-Catholic perspective, Catholic Church privileges pose certain concerns regarding religious freedom[editorializing], such as:

  • concordats give to the Church a privileged position that other religious groups are denied (European history in numerous books reveals this fact[editorializing])
  • concordats may not be "the same as treaties" because they are entered into by an entity that is both religious and political in nature, viz., the Catholic Church, with exception to states which are expressly atheist or are identified as choosing anti-religious views, whereas any other treaty is regularly between two sovereign entities on a horizontal level, i.e., purely political in nature,[5] and
  • depending on the negotiations agreed upon in the concordat, some religious groups face the threat of being marginalized[citation needed]. For example, in Spain, although the Constitution guarantees religious freedom, the Church is mentioned by name, and in practice holds a pre-eminent position among other religious groups.[6] In recent years, debate has occurred regarding whether the Spanish government should maintain a concordat with the Vatican.[7]

Due to these concerns, the United States did not establish diplomatic ties to the Vatican until the Ronald Reagan administration in 1984; and, to this day, the United States does not have a concordat with the Vatican, despite the two having a mutual "compromise" in terms of relationship.[8]

"Although the United States will probably not go so far as some nations have by concluding a concordat with the Vatican, it will, in effect, further the religious purposes of the Vatican. Otherwise, the Vatican would have no interest in establishing diplomatic relations with the United States. Perhaps it is accurate to characterize the exchange of embassies as a compromise - meaning, the United States is willing to further the religious purposes of the Vatican, if the Vatican is willing to further the foreign policy objectives of the United States."

Samuel W. Bettwy, "United States - Vatican Recognition: Background and Issues" (1984), p. 257-258

Examples of concordats

The Signing of the Concordat between France and the Holy See, 15 July 1801. Artist: François Gérard, (1770-1837). Musée National du Château de Versailles, Versailles
  • The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly had taken Church properties and issued the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Subsequent laws abolished Christian holidays.[9] Many religious leaders had either gone into exile or been executed during the Reign of Terror. The Church gave up any claims to lands confiscated after 1790, but secured the right to public worship, subject to any public safety concerns on the part of the local prefect. Napoleon was able to pacify French Catholics, while limiting the papacy's influence in France. While the concordat restored some ties to the papacy, it largely favored the state.[10] Within a year Napoleon unilaterally amended the agreement with the Organic Articles legislating religious practice.

Some concordats guarantee the Catholic Church the tax-exempt status of a charity, being by fact the largest charitable institution in the world, either stating this explicitly, as in Brazil (2008, Article 15)[11] and Italy (1984, Article 7.3),[12] or phrasing it indirectly, as in Portugal (2004, art. 12).[13]

When the political will is present, such concordat privileges can be extended by domestic legislation. In 1992 the tax exemption granted the Church by the Italian concordat was interpreted by a law which permits the Catholic Church to avoid paying 90% of what it owes to the state for its commercial activities.[14] Thus, a small shrine within the walls of a cinema, holiday resort, shop, restaurant or hotel is sufficient to confer religious exemption.[15] In June 2007 Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition announced an investigation of this. Then, in August, the deputy finance minister in Romano Prodi's fragile center-left coalition said the issue needed to be tackled in the next year's budget.[16] However, after that nothing more about this was heard from the Barroso Commission and a few months later the Prodi government fell.[citation needed]

The Slovak concordat (2000, art. 20.2) ensures that church offertories are "not subject to taxation or to the requirement of public accountability".[17]

This is also the case in Côte d'Ivoire, where far larger sums are involved. The Basilica at Yamoussoukro, is estimated to have cost $300 million, and the additional running expenses for what is the largest church in the world are also shielded from scrutiny by the 1992 concordat concluded with the Ivorian president. Houphouët-Boigny claimed that these funds came from his private fortune. A Vatican official is reported to have called the agreement over the foundation set up to administer these funds "a delicate matter".[18] Nevertheless, this concordat ensures that the foundation's income and assets remain untaxed (art. 9.1), it holds these funds beyond the reach of both criminal and civil law (art. 7.1), it permits this money to be sent out of the country (art. 13.2) and it keeps all the foundation's documents "inviolable", in other words, secret (art. 8).[19]

In Colombia there was a crisis between state and church in 1994 when Attorney-General Gustavo de Greiff accused several bishops of having illegal contacts with the FARC guerrillas. It turned out that under Colombia's concordat with the Holy See, members of the clergy could only be investigated by ecclesiastical courts which are ruled by canon law, and that the bishops were therefore immune from investigation by the civil authorities on what many in Colombia considered to be a serious felony.[citation needed]


There have been at least several hundred concordats over the centuries.[20] The following is a sortable list of the concordats and other bilateral agreements concluded by the Holy See.

Treaty Contracting party Date of conclusion Date of entering into force
1107 Concordat of London with Henry I of  England 1 Aug 1107
1122 Concordat of Worms between Pope Calixtus II and Henry V of the  Holy Roman Empire 23 Sep 1122
1161 Concordat between Pope Alexander III and Géza II of  Hungary 1161
1169 Concordat between Pope Alexander III and Stephen III of  Hungary 1169
1210 Parliament of Ravennika between Pope Innocent III and the princes of Frankish Greece May 1210
1277 Concordat of Tonsberg between Jon Raude, Archbishop of Nidaros and Magnus VI of  Norway 1277
1289 Concordat of the Forty Articles  Portugal 7 March 1289
1418 Concordats of Constance  Aragon, Castile,
 England,  France,
 Holy Roman Empire,
 Naples,  Navarre,
 Portugal,  Scotland,
 Sicily,  Venice
21 March 1418
1426 Concordat between Pope Martin V and Charles VII of  France 1426
Fürsten Konkordat between Pope Eugenius IV and the Princes Electors of the  Holy Roman Empire Jan 1447
1516 Concordat of Bologna between Pope Leo X and King Francis I of  France Sep 1516
1610 Concordat of Mi'kmaw between Pope Paul V and Grand Chief Henri Membertou of Mi'kmaw Nation 1610[21]
1753 Concordat of Bologna between Pope Benedict XIV and King Ferdinand VI of  Spain 1753
1801 Concordat between Pope Pius VII and Napoléon of  France 15 July 1801
1813 Concordat of Fontainebleau between Pope Pius VII and Napoléon of  France 25 Jan. 1813
1817 Concordat between the Holy See and  Bavaria 5 Jun 1817
1817 Concordat between the Holy See and King Louis XVIII of  France 11 Jun 1817
1827 Concordat between the Holy See and the  Netherlands 16 Sep. 1827
1847 Concordat between the Holy See and  Russia 3 Aug 1847
1851 Concordat[22][unreliable source?] between the Holy See and  Spain 16 Mar 1851 11 May 1851
1852 Concordat between the Holy See and  Costa Rica 7 Oct 1852 Dec 1852
1854 Concordat between the Holy See and  Guatemala 1852 1854
1855 Concordat between the Holy See and  Austria 18 Aug 1855
1862 Concordat[23] between the Holy See and  El Salvador Apr 1862
1882 Concordat between the Holy See and  Russia 23 Dec. 1882
1886 Concordat between the Holy See and  Portugal 23 June 1886
1886 Concordat between the Holy See and  Montenegro 18 Aug. 1886
1887 Concordat between the Holy See and  Colombia 1887
1914 Concordat[24] between the Holy See and  Serbia 24 June 1914 20 March 1915[25]
1922 Concordat between the Holy See and  Latvia 30 May 1922[26] 3 Nov 1922
1925 Concordat between the Holy See and  Poland 10 Feb 1925[26] 2 Jul 1925
1927 Concordat between the Holy See and  Romania 10 May 1927 29 May 1929[27]
1927 Concordat between the Holy See and  Lithuania 27 Sep 1927[28]
1928 Concordat between the Holy See and  Colombia 5 May 1928
1929 Lateran Treaty[29] between the Holy See and  Italy 11 Feb 1929 7 Jun 1929
1929 Prussian Concordat between the Holy See and Kingdom of Prussia Prussian Free State 14 July 1929
1933 Concordat between the Holy See and  Austria 5 June 1933
1933 Reichskonkordat between the Holy See and Germany Germany 20 Jul 1933
1940 Concordat between the Holy See and  Portugal 7 May 1940
1953 Concordat[30][31] between the Holy See and  Spain 27 Aug 1953 27 Oct 1953
1954 Concordat[32][33] between the Holy See and  Dominican Republic 16 June 1954
1993 Concordat between the Holy See and  Poland 28 Jul 1993 25 Apr 1998
1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and  Israel 30 Dec 1993 10 Mar 1994
1996 Agreements between the Holy See and  Croatia 18 Dec 1996[34][35][36] 11[34][35] and 25 Feb 1997[36]
1997 Agreement between the Holy See and  Hungary 20 June 1997[37] 3 April 1998
1997 Legal Personality Agreement[38] between the Holy See the State of  Israel 10 Nov 1997
1998 Agreement between the Holy See and  Croatia 9 Oct 1998[39] 30 Dec 1998[39]
2000 Basic Agreement[40] between the Holy See and  Palestine 15 February 2000 15 February 2000
2000 Agreement[41] between the Holy See and  Latvia 8 November 2000 25 October 2002
2004 Treaty between the Holy See and  Slovakia 13 May 2004 9 Jul 2004[42]
2004 Concordat between the Holy See and  Portugal 18 May 2004
2004 Concordat between the Holy See and  Slovenia 28 May 2004
Basic Agreement[43] between the Holy See and  Bosnia and Herzegovina 19 Apr 2006 25 Oct 2007
2008 Concordat between the Holy See and  Brazil 13 Nov 2008
2009 Concordat between the Holy See and  Schleswig-Holstein 12 Jan 2009
2015 Comprehensive agreement[44] between the Holy See and  Palestine 26 Jun 2015[45] 2 Jan 2016[46]
2016 Framework agreement on matters of mutual interest between the Holy See and  Democratic Republic of Congo 20 May 2016
2016 Framework agreement on matters of mutual interest between the Holy See and  Central African Republic 8 Sep 2016
2016 Framework agreement regarding the legal status of the Catholic Church between the Holy See and  Benin 22 Oct 2016


  1. ^ a b c d René Metz, What is Canon Law? (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1960 [1st Edition]), pg. 137
  2. ^ Browne, P. W. (4 May 2018). "The Pactum Callixtinum: An Innovation in Papal Diplomacy". The Catholic Historical Review. 8 (2): 180–190. JSTOR 25011853.
  3. ^ See, for example, Petkoff 2007.
  4. ^ Pius XI, Dilectissima Nobis 1933
  5. ^ Robert A. Graham, "Introduction: Reflections on Vatican Diplomacy", in Kent and Pollard, eds., Papal Diplomacy, 1, 2
  6. ^ Andrea Bonime-Blanc, Spain's Transition to Democracy: The Politics of Constitution-making (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc., 1987), 104.
  7. ^ Maria Elena Olmos Ortega, "Los Acuerdos con la Santa Sede: Instrumentos Garantes de la Libertad Religiosa", in Maria del Mar Martin, Mercedes Salido, Jose Maria Vazquez Garcia-Penuela, eds., Iglesia Catolica y Relaciones Internacionales: Actas del III Simposio Internacional de Derecho Concordatorio (Granada: Editorial Comares, 2008), 489–502.
  8. ^ Bettwy, Samuel M. (Summer 1984). "United States - Vatican Recognition: Background and Issues". The Catholic Lawyer. 29 (3): 265. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  9. ^ "France". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011. See drop-down essay on "Religion and Politics until the French Revolution"
  10. ^ Vilmer, Jean-Baptiste Jeangène (2007). "Commentaire du Concordat de 1801 entre la France et le Saint-Siège" [Comment on the Concordat of 1801 between France and the Holy See]. Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique (in French). 102 (1): 124–154. doi:10.1484/J.RHE.3.141.
  11. ^ "Brazil | Concordat: text (2008)". Concordat Watch. Translated by Sottomaior, Daniel. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Concordat Watch - Italy - Modifications to the Lateran Concordat (1984): text". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Concordat Watch - Portugal - Concordat (2004): text". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  14. ^ Maltese, Curzio (25 June 2007). "Property tax relief for the Church: EU takes Italy to Court". Concordat Watch. Translated by Hunter, Graeme A. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Gli alberghi dei santi alla crociata dell'Ici" ("Tax crusade marches on the holy hotels"), Curzio Maltese, La Repubblica, 25 October 2007.
  16. ^ Hooper, John (28 August 2007). "Church ready to forgo tax breaks". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Texts of Slovak concordats and other Church-state documents. Basic Concordat (2000)". Concordat Watch. Translated by Holohan, David. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  18. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (24 June 2001). "The Basilica in the Bush". Time.
  19. ^ "Côte d'Ivoire - Agreement concerning the "International Foundation, Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro" (1992): text". Concordat Watch. Translated by Fraser, Muriel. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  20. ^ "Concordat Watch - Concordat Strategy - What are Concordats?". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ Concordat of 1851, (in English)
  23. ^ Kuhn, Gary G. (1985). "Church and State Conflict in El Salvador as a Cause of the Central American War of 1863". Journal of Church and State. 27 (3): 460–461. JSTOR 23916318.
  24. ^ "Concordat between the Holy See and the Realm of Serbia in 1914 (between Pius X and Peter I) - Licodu". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  25. ^ Salaville, Sévérien (4 May 2018). "Le Concordat de la Serbie avec le Saint-Siège (juin 1914-mars 1915)". Échos d'Orient. 17 (108): 459–468. doi:10.3406/rebyz.1915.4174.
  26. ^ a b René Metz, "What is Canon Law?" (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1960 [1st Edition]), pg. 138
  27. ^ Barszczewska, Agnieszka (2001). "The Roman-Catholic Church and Its Influence on the Moldavian Csángó Identity in Greater Romania". In Barszczewska, Agnieszka; Peti, Lehel (eds.). Integrating Minorities: Traditional Communities and Modernization. The Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities. p. 232. ISBN 978-606-92744-9-1.
  28. ^ Eidintas, Alfonsas (2015). Antanas Smetona and His Lithuania: From the National Liberation Movement to an Authoritarian Regime (1893-1940). On the Boundary of Two Worlds. Translated by Alfred Erich Senn. Brill Rodopi. p. 193. ISBN 9789004302037.
  29. ^ "For the text of the Lateran Treaty see" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  30. ^ Concordat of 1953, (in English)
  31. ^ Concordato entre la Santa Sede y España Archived 22 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, [html], Vatican website; accessed 15 February 2017.
  32. ^ Concordat of 1954, (in English)
  33. ^ Concordato entre la Santa Sede y la República Dominicana, [html], Vatican website; accessed 14 January 2020.
  34. ^ a b Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o suradnji na području odgoja i kulture Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine (in Croatian)
  35. ^ a b Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o dušobrižništvu katoličkih vjernika, pripadnika oružanih snaga i redarstvenih službi Republike Hrvatske Archived 7 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine (in Croatian)
  36. ^ a b Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o pravnim pitanjima Archived 10 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine (in Croatian)
  37. ^ "Concordat Watch - Hungary - Hungary-Vatican concordat on finance (1997): text". Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  38. ^ Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Legal Personality Agreement Archived 10 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ a b Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o gospodarskim pitanjima Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine (in Croatian)
  40. ^ "Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization". Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  41. ^ "Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Latvia" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  42. ^ "Open Society Foundations". Open Society Foundations. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  43. ^ 2006 Basic Agreement
  44. ^ "2015 agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 May 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  45. ^ "News from the Vatican - News about the Church - Vatican News". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  46. ^ "News from the Vatican - News about the Church - Vatican News". Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.


  • Baker, Michael (2010). "Security and the sacred: examining Canada's legal response to the clash of public safety and religious freedom". Touro Law Center: International Law Review, Vol. 13 (1). Available online.
  • DiMarco, Erica (2009). "The tides of Vatican influence in Italian reproductive matters: from abortion to assisted reproduction". Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 10 (2) Spring. Available online.
  • Hosack, Kristen A. (2010). "Napoleon Bonaparte's Concordat and the French Revolution". Constructing the Past, Vol. 11 (1), article 5. Available online
  • Hughes, John Jay (1974). "The Reich Concordat 1933: Capitulation or Compromise?" Australian Journal of Politics & History, 20 (2), pp. 164–175.
  • Metz, René, "What is Canon Law?" (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1960 [1st Edition])
  • Petkoff, Peter (2007). "Legal perspectives and religious perspectives of religious rights under international law in the Vatican Concordats (1963–2004)". Law and Justice: The Christian Law Review, 158, p. 30- online (payment may be required).
  • Plichtová, Jana and Petrjánošová, Magda (2008). "Freedom of religion, institution of conscientious objection and political practice in post-communist Slovakia". Human Affairs, 18 (1), June, pp. 37–51. Available online here.
  • "Concordat" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). 1911. pp. 832–834.

External links

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