Sep 12, 2008
Book written by: Charles A. Coulombe
Many people know that the Pope exists and that he is the head of the Catholic Church. However, many do not realize that he is also a sovereign and head of a country. His country, Vatican City or the Holy See, is the smallest country in the world with only 100 acres surrounded by Rome. However, it has not always been this way. In the past, the Holy Father was not only the head of the Catholic Church, but he also was the temporal ruler of land in the central part of present-day Italy and had territory in other places in Europe such as Avignon in present-day France. These territories were called the Papal States. The Papal States may have started when Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) had to watch over the city of Rome while the emperor was away an unable to care for Rome’s security and other needs. Pope St. Gregory stepped in and so the papal monarchy began.
During the reign of Pope Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878), the longest reigning Pope after St. Peter, the Italians began to work and fight for the unity of the Italian peninsula. This unification process also involved not only the Papal States, but other countries such as France and Austria were concerned since they had vested interests in the peninsula.
The leaders of Italian unification were King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi was a loose cannon that the king would let loose to wreak havoc on Italian duchies and the Kingdom of Naples and the Papal States. He also served as a fall-guy when things did not go as planned. During the 1860s the Italian peninsula was pretty much united under King Victor Emmanuel’s rule, except for the Papal States - Pope Pius IX was not willing to give up his territory voluntarily.