July 14

The visit of The Pope




As Australia welcomes His Holiness The Pope, Benedict XVI, for World Youth Day, it is relevant to recall that he also comes as a Head of State.

As Sovereign, he exercises the plenitude of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the State of the Vatican City, which was created in 1929.

And as Bishop of Rome, he heads the Holy See and through the Roman Curia governs the Catholic Church.

The Holy See has enjoyed international legal personality longer than any other entity, including all modern states and international organisations.

The Holy See thus may enter into treaties and send and receive diplomatic representatives.It is not acceptable that an ambassador be also accredited to Italy.

Accordingly the present Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Her Excellency Ms Anne Plunkett, is also Ambassador to Ireland.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal  Pell, has spoken and written recently about the Papacy. It is very much a "warts and all account."

The fact that the Papacy is a monarchy demonstrates the inutility of treating terms such as republic or monarchy as mutually exclusive. 

 Indeed the word "republic" is so  imprecise as to be almost meaningless  when used without detail.

…Vatican City….



From the eighth century to the late nineteenth century, The Pope enjoyed temporal authority as monarch over what came to be known as the Papal States.

While retaining its ecclesiastical core, the office began to take on the trappings of monarchy.

The most obvious sign of this was when the  Popes processed formally. In order that they could be seen, they adopted a magnificent portable throne, the sedia gestatoria.

Last used by Pope John XXIII, the modern equivalent, which allows visibility but provides some security, is the so-called popemobile. 

With the unification of Italy, and the withdrawal of French troops because of the Franco Prussian War, Italy was able to incorporate Rome into the new Kingdom of Italy in 1870.  

The Pope withdrew to the Vatican.  The dispute with Italy was not resolved until the 1929 Lateran Treaty under which Italy recognized the Vatican City as  a state  ruled by the Pope.

The Vatican City State administers properties belonging to the Holy See in Rome. That is the only temporal power The Pope wields to day.

In wartime discussions, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin contemptuously asked of Winston Churchill " How many divisions has The Pope?" Churchill replied that power was not only to be assessed in military terms.

The Soviet Union is widely believed to have been behind the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 because of his influence in Poland, then a Soviet satellite.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the Papacy continues.

… Judeo Christian values..


While the Catholic Church is the largest church in Australia, we have neither an established church nor a state religion, as is found in many other countries.


Nevertheless, Australia was founded on Judeo-Christian values.

They are at the very basis of the common law which came with settlement.

This does not mean that Australians, or immigrants, should belong to some such religious denomination, or indeed, to any religion.

But those Judeo –Christian values, although modified, still permeate our society.

 It is relevant to recall that in the late nineteenth century consultations about our Constitution, the reference in the Preamble to the people agreeing to unite “..humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God..” proved to be especially popular, attracting more favourable submissions than any other.

 As a balance, section 116 of the Constitution provides:

“ The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”  


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