“if you want to show some proper respect and courtesy to the Holy See…”

In the Irish Times Paddy Agnew has an interesting, and prompt, response to last night’s announcement of the Irish Government’s decision to close the Irish Embassy to the Vatican.  From the Irish Times article

In practice, there are two types of Holy See ambassadors – those who have their own embassies in Rome and those who work out of the embassy in a neighbouring country such as France, Switzerland or Malta.

Senior Vatican diplomats point out that as far as the Holy See is concerned, the former are Serie A ambassadors, while the latter are most distinctly Serie B. Put simply, if you want to show some proper respect and courtesy to the Holy See, then you had better maintain a separate embassy to the Vatican in Rome.

Ever since the 1929 concordat, the Vatican has mounted a zealous guard on the independence of its 100-acre, landlocked sovereign city-state enclave in the heart of Rome. First time Irish visitors, on discovering the Irish State runs (or ran) two diplomatic missions in the city – one to the Holy See and the other to the Italian state – often express surprise. Surely, they ask, a small country such as Ireland could make do with just one embassy which would handle relations with both the Vatican and Italy?

However, the point about the dual missions in Rome (and many other countries have two embassies here) is that they owe their existence to the Holy See’s desire to separate itself from the Italian state. It is the Holy See that refuses to accept an ambassador who is working out of the same building as the ambassador to Italy.

To some extent, the question goes back to first World War days when there was only one national embassy in Rome. When both Austria and Germany, then at war with Italy, withdrew their diplomatic representation, the Holy See found itself without German or Austrian interlocutors. In its finely tuned Jesuitical thinking, the Holy See objected to ambassadors being withdrawn because, while Italy might have been at war with Austria and Germany, the Holy See was not.

Countries which, whether through political choice or financial constraint, opt not to have a separate Vatican embassy usually end up “tagging on” Holy See responsibilities to their ambassador in a neighbouring country. The Holy See takes a dim view of this practice and the ambassador in question is very much a second-class citizen on the Vatican diplomatic circuit.

Read the whole thing.

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