Every February 11, the Vatican City State celebrates the anniversary of its establishment. This year marks the 81st year of its existence, but the streets of the smallest nation on Earth were full for other reasons today.
On Feb. 11, 1929, the Lateran Treaty was signed by Cardinal Gasparri, then Secretary of State of the Holy See, and Benito Mussolini, then head of the Italian government, to establish the Vatican City as an entity independent from the rest of Italy.
In three sections, the original "Pacts" provided for the establishment of an independent state governed by the Pope, who was Pius XI at the time. The creation of the territory was intended to serve as compensation for the usurped papal states and as an official recognition of ecclesiastic relations between the Holy See and the Italian government.
According to an article from yesterday's edition of the Vatican newspaper, "from the date of its birth until today this singular State has carried out a precious and irreplaceable service for the Holy See, for its independence, for its liberty, assuring it at the same time a growing complex of resources and services, that are always more necessary to be able to act in the complex contemporary reality."
While there were no visible celebrations going on in the Vatican to celebrate this day, there were thousands of people gathered at St. Peter's this morning to usher in the World Day for the Sick. Many attended a Mass with the Holy Father in which he recognized the importance of the pastoral ministry to the sick.
Also, on Thursday afternoon in Vatican City, the Holy Father greeted the sick, volunteers and other pilgrims that made the trip from the Castel Sant'Angelo to the steps of St. Peter's. The pilgrims carried the relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes with them to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.