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Vatican takes part for first time in 1870 capture of Rome tribute

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (centre) flanked by Rome mayor Gianno Alemanno (left) addressing celebrations marking the 140th anniversary of Rome as a capital, yesterday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (centre) flanked by Rome mayor Gianno Alemanno (left) addressing celebrations marking the 140th anniversary of Rome as a capital, yesterday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The Vatican for the first time took part in anniversary celebrations of the 1870 capture of Rome by Italian troops which ended the Papal States’ domination of the city for more than a thousand years.

“We are here to take part in a symbolic gesture and to re-affirm the fact that Rome is the indisputable capital of Italy, just like it is the heart of everything that concern the Church,” Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said before the ceremony.

Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano and the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, also took part in the celebrations of the 140th anniversary of the “breach of Porta Pia,” when on September 20, 1870 Italian troops broke into Rome close to the city gate, completing the country’s unification.

Mr Alemanno said Cardinal Bertone’s presence had “a special meaning”, even though the ceremony “was no longer a matter of healing the historical wound between the Italian state and the Holy See”.

Secularist activists, however, took issue with the fact that Cardinal Bertone was the only one to speak at Porta Pia in front of the monument celebrating Italy’s Bersaglieri, the historical corps of the Italian army that breached the city wall and entered it first.

“The fact that a deputy of the Pope is here and the fact that he was the only one to speak is a wound for our country, for its freedom and democracy,” Mario Staderini, the head of the secularist Radical party, told reporters after Cardinal Bertone spoke.

The Pontifical States controlled much of central Italy throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, spanning the region of Latium around Rome as well as Umbria and the Marche to the north and extending up to the city of Bologna.

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