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A concordat is 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 model of relations between the Vatican and various states is still evolving[3] in the wake of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis humanae.[citation needed]

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, such as:

  • concordats give to the Church a privileged position that other religious groups are denied (European history in numerous books reveals this fact)
  • 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 expressedly 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,[4] and
  • depending on the negotiations agreed upon in the concordat, some religious groups face the threat of being marginalized. For example, in Spain, although the Constitution guarantees religious freedom (theoretically), yet in practice, the Church is mentioned by name and holds a pre-eminent position among other religious groups.[5] In recent years, debate has occurred regarding whether the Spanish government should maintain a concordat with the Vatican.[6]

Examples of concordats

Signature du Concordat entre la France et le Saint-Siège, le 15 juillet 1801
  • 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.[7] Many religious 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.[8] 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)[9] and Italy (1984, Article 7.3),[10] or phrasing it indirectly, as in Portugal (2004, art. 12).[11]

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.[12] Thus, a small shrine within the walls of a cinema, holiday resort, shop, restaurant or hotel is sufficient to confer religious exemption.[13] 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.[14] However, after that nothing more about this was heard from the Barroso Commission and a few months later the Prodi government fell.

The Slovak concordat (2000, art. 20.2) ensures that church offertories are "not subject to taxation or to the requirement of public accountability".[15]

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 dictator. 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".[16]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).[17]

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.


Further information: Treaties of the Holy See, Multilateral Treaties signed by the Holy See and Concordats with individual states of Germany

There have been at least several hundred concordats over the centuries.[18] 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
1210 Parliament of Ravennika between the Catholic (ultimately) 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
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 Membertou of Grand Council of Mi'kmaw Nation 1610[19]
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 King 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[20][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 1855
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[21] between the Holy See and Serbia 24 June 1914 20 March 1915 [22]
1922 Concordat between the Holy See and Latvia 30 May 1922[23] 3 Nov 1922
1925 Concordat between the Holy See and Poland 10 Feb 1925[23] 2 Jul 1925
1927 Concordat[24][unreliable source?] between the Holy See and Romania 10 May 1927
1928 Concordat between the Holy See and Colombia 5 May 1928
1929 Lateran Treaty[25] between the Holy See and Italy 11 Feb 1929 7 Jun 1929
1933 Concordat between the Holy See and Austria 5 June 1933
1933 Reichskonkordat between the Holy See and Germany 20 Jul 1933
1940 Concordat between the Holy See and Portugal 7 May 1940
1953 Concordat[26][unreliable source?] between the Holy See and Spain 27 Aug 1953 27 Oct 1953
1958 Concordat between the Holy See and Dominican Republic 1958
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[27][28][29] 11[27][28] and 25 Feb 1997[29]
1997 Agreement between the Holy See and Hungary 20 June 1997[30] 3 April 1998
1997 Legal Personality Agreement[31] between the Holy See the State of Israel 10 Nov 1977
1998 Agreement between the Holy See and Croatia 9 Oct 1998[32] 30 Dec 1998[32]
2004 Treaty between the Holy See and Slovakia 13 May 2004 9 Jul 2004[33]
2004 Concordat between the Holy See and Portugal 18 May 2004
2004 Concordat between the Holy See and Slovenia 28 May 2004
Basic Agreement[34] 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 between the Holy See and State of Palestine 26 Jun 2015


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 René Metz, "What is Canon Law?" (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1960 [1st Edition]), pg. 137
  2. Browne, P. W.. “The Pactum Callixtinum: An Innovation in Papal Diplomacy”. The Catholic Historical Review 8.2 (1922): 180–190
  3. See, for example, Petkoff 2007.
  4. Robert A. Graham, "Introduction: Reflections on Vatican Diplomacy," in Kent and Pollard, eds., Papal Diplomacy, 1, 2
  5. Andrea Bonime-Blanc, Spain’s Transition to Democracy: The Politics of Constitution-making (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc., 1987), 104.
  6. 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.
  7. "France". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Retrieved 15 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> See drop-down essay on "Religion and Politics until the French Revolution"
  8. Vilmer, Jean-Baptiste Jeangéne. "Comment on the Concordat of 1801 between France and the Holy See", Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique, 102: 1, 2007, p. 124-154
  9. English translation of 2008 Brazilian concordat
  10. English translation of 1984 Italian concordat
  11. English translation of 2004 Portuguese concordat
  12. "La Ue pronta a processare gli sconti Ici alla Chiesa" ("Property tax relief for the Church: EU takes Italy to court"), Curzio Maltese, La Repubblica, 25 June 2007.
  13. "Gli alberghi dei santi alla crociata dell'Ici" ("Tax crusade marches on the holy hotels"), Curzio Maltese, La Repubblica, 25 October 2007.
  14. Church ready to forgo tax breaks, John Hooper, Guardian, 28 August 2007.
  15. ASC&kb_id=1222 English translation of 2000 Slovak concordat
  16. "The Basilica in the Bush", Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine, 3 July 1989.
  17. English translation of 1992 Ivorian concordat
  18. [1]
  20. Concordat of 1851, (English)
  21. Concordat between the Holy See and the Realm of Serbia in 1914 (Italian)
  22. Le Concordat de la Serbie avec le Saint-Siège (juin 1914-mars 1915)
  23. 23.0 23.1 René Metz, "What is Canon Law?" (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1960 [1st Edition]), pg. 138
  25. For the text of the Lateran Treaty see
  26. Concordat of 1953, (English)
  27. 27.0 27.1 Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o suradnji na području odgoja i kulture (Croatian)
  28. 28.0 28.1 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 (Croatian)
  29. 29.0 29.1 Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o pravnim pitanjima (Croatian)
  30. Concordat on finance (1997)
  31. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Legal Personality Agreement
  32. 32.0 32.1 Odluka o proglašenju Zakona o potvrđivanju Ugovora između Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske o gospodarskim pitanjima (Croatian)
  33. Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. Monitoring law and practice in Slovakia by Janka Debreceniova, Zuzana Ocenasova. p. 81
  34. 2006 Basic Agreement


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  • 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.
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