The nascent Kingdom of Italy
declared Rome as its capital
on 3 February 1871, soon af-
ter the city fell to the Italian
forces led by Giuseppe Garibaldi.
This spelled an end to papal control
over Rome and the papal states.
Pope Francis called the proclama-
tion of Rome as Italy’s capital “a prov-
idential event, which led to polemics
and problems at the time. But it
changed Rome, Italy, and the Church
herself: a new story began.”
Providence guiding history
His remark came in a message to
the opening ceremony for the 150th
anniversary of the declaration of
“Roma Capitale”, read out by Cardinal
Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
The event was held on Monday
evening at the Opera Theater, in the
presence of Italy’s President Sergio
Mattarella and other dignitaries.
In his message, Pope Francis quoted
Pope St Paul VI – written while still
Cardinal Montini – on the subject.
“It seemed like a catastrophe, and
for the pontifical dominion over
territory it was […]. But Providence
– as we now see well – had disposed
things differently, almost dramatically
Sharing joys and trials
Pope Francis went on to say Rome
has changed and grown much over
the course of a century and a half, and
the Church has “shared in the joys
and trials of Romans.”
He mentioned three historical
events that illustrate how the Church
and Rome have influenced each other.
The first was the 9-month Nazi
occupation of the city in 1943 and
1944, during which over a thousand
Roman Jews were sent to concentra-
tion camps to die.
The Pope said the Church offered
refuge to many in danger of falling
into their hands. This, he said, led
to the fall of “ancient barriers and
painful distances” between the Jewish
and Catholic communities. “From
those difficult times we learn above
all the lesson of the undying fraternity
between the Catholic Church and the
Jewish community,” said the Pope.
Rome a home for all
He also recalled the Second Vatican
Council – held between 1962 and
1965 – during which Rome “shone as
a universal, Catholic, and ecumenical
place” as it welcomed hundreds of
Council Fathers, ecumenical observ-
ers, and experts.
The third event Pope Francis men-
tioned was a conference held in Feb-
ruary 1974 by the Diocese regarding
the “evils afflicting Rome”.
Participants in that meeting sought
to help the Church listen to the poor
and the peripheries.
The lesson, said Pope Francis, is that
“the city must be a home for all.”
Peace through fraternity
The Pope encouraged Rome’s
residents and politicians to see their
city through the eyes of those who
arrive seeking a better life. “Rome is
a great resource for humanity. Rome
is a city of unique beauty.” And the
city, he said, must be renewed both
“in openness to the world and in the
inclusion of all.”
Finally, Pope Francis said the
Eternal City “will promote unity and
peace in the world, in the measure
she is able to become a fraternal city.”