The signing of the Concordat between Italy and the Catholic Church occurred 40 years ago, on February 18, 1984. Prior to this significant event, Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi gathered two of his colleagues at Palazzo Chigi – Giuliano Amato and Gennaro Acquaviva – to discuss the final draft of the text. With a heavy heart, Craxi stood up, walked around the table and knelt in front of a portrait of Garibaldi before saying, “I ask your forgiveness!”.
After taking over as President of the Council on August 4, 1983, Craxi entrusted Acquaviva with revising the Concordat. On January 28, 1984, the motion granting Craxi authority to close the agreement was approved by the Chamber with 338 votes in favor, 67 against and 30 abstentions. The document was then signed twenty days later at Villa Madama by Agostino Casaroli, Vatican Secretary of State and Craxi himself.
The main objective of this agreement was to adapt it to fit within Italy’s constitution. Under new terms, Catholicism is no longer considered Italy’s state religion and the government renounced its control over the internal life of the Church. Financial support from the state for priests was abolished and an eight per thousand financing system was introduced. This system allowed citizens to donate a portion of their Irpef tax to either religion or other confessions. In return, religious teaching in schools became voluntary and church activities were subjected to ordinary taxation.
These changes marked a significant shift in Italy’s relationship with its Catholic Church and were a pivotal moment in its religious and political history.