ROME -- The Vatican and the Italian government became reconciled today.
Plenipotentiaries for both sides met at a table in the historic St. John Lateran palace and signed the agreement ending the dispute that had lasted since 1870. Benito Mussolini premier of Italy, representing King Victor Emmanuel III, and Pietro Cardinal Gasparri, papal secretary of state, representing Pope Pius XI, signed the historic documents precisely at noon.
The momentous ceremony opened a new era in the nearly 2,000 years of history of the Roman Catholic church. The Pope again was recognized as a temporal sovereign -- ruler over the little papal state -- as well as the spiritual head of the church, and the 58 years of voluntary imprisonment of the Pope in the Vatican was ended.
The ceremony, clothed with the utmost solemnity and dignity, was held in strict secrecy and only a handful of men witnessed the writing of a new chapter in history.
The first document of the two-part agreement is a treaty of peace. The king recognizes the sovereignty, freedom and independence of the Pope. The Pope recognizes the king of Italy. Italy agrees to pay an indemnity (understood to be about $82,634,000) for the papal territory taken over by the government in 1870. The Vatican is given a tiny state over which it exercises a complete territorial sovereignty. Reduction of the indemnity from the previously agreed total of $105,000,000 was among the late changes.
The second document is in the nature of a concordat settling details of future relations between Italy and the Holy See.
While the signing was being accomplished, Catholics in all parts of the world rejoiced in the settlement, and prayers went up from thousands of churches.
Outside the palace, St. John Lateran Square was filled with theological students of all nationalities, dressed in cassocks. There was a general air of rejoicing despite the rain.
St. John Lateran Basilica had been closed to the public at 10:30 a.m. and the palace was closed and guarded all day.
Few police or troops were in evidence. One priest in the square was heard to remark:
"This is a providential day -- the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Considering the difficulties of solving the Roman question, this, too, is a miracle."
The official text of the agreement will not be published until it has been ratified by the Italian parliament. A short, official account of today's proceedings will be issued by the Vatican and the government.
The witnesses of the historic ceremony, in addition to the Premier Mussolini and Cardinal Gasparri, the signers were Monsignor Borgongini-Luca of the Vatican staff; Giuseppi Pizzardo, papal undersecretary of state, and Commendatore Francesco Pacelli, Vatican attorney, who was the go-between in the negotiations between the Pope and Mussolini; Minister of Justice Alfredo Rocco, Undersecretary of State Dino Grandi; and Francesco Gounta, undersecretary to the premier.
The Osservatore Romano, official Vatican organ, in a special edition issued immediately after the ceremony, printed the following communique:
"At noon today in the Pope's hall of the Apostolic Lateran palace, a treaty between the Holy See and Italy was signed whereby the Roman question was settled.
"A concordat towards regulating the conditions of religion and the church in Italy also was signed. A special financial agreement was signed together with the treaty.
"The plenipotentiaries were his eminence, Cardinal Gasparri, secretary of state to his holiness and Chevalier Mussolini, premier and head of the Italian government. Monsignors Borgongini-Duca and Pizzardo and Professor Pacelli, jurist to the Holy See, on the one side, and their excellencies, Signors Rocco, Grandi and Giunta, on the other, witnessed the solemn act."
The following official communique was issued by the government:
"Today in the Apostolic Lateran palace, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, plenipotentiary of the Supreme Pontiff, and Cavalier Benito Mussolini, prime minister, chief of the government and plenipotentiary of his majesty Emmanuel III, king of Italy, signed a political treaty resolving and eliminating the Roman question.
"Also was signed a concordat intended to regulate the conditions of religion and the church in Italy, also a convention which systematizes definitely the financial relations between the Holy See and Italy dependent on the events of 1870.
"There were present at the act of signing, for the Holy See, Monsignor Borgongini-Duca, Monsignor Pizzardo and Professor Francesco Pacelli; for Italy, Signors Rocco, Grandi and Giunta.
"Out of homage to the custom of the Holy See, namely, not to publish its international conventions before they are presented for discussion before legislative assemblies, the texts of those conventions will not be published, but a full, precise resume will be given tomorrow."
The council hall, where the ceremony occurred, furnished a fitting setting for the ceremony. Sometimes known as "the Hall of the Popes," it is imbued with an atmosphere recalling a thousand years in the history of the Roman Catholic church.