The marriage in Italy – The Concordat

The marriage in Italy – The Concordat

Lateran Concordat and genealogical research – The mariage in Italy

The subject of marriage was controversial after the expulsion of the French from Italy. In some Italian states, before the Italian Unification, like the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, civil validity was granted to ecclesiastical marriages. However, from 1861, the Kingdom of Italy refused to give civil validation to parish marriages.

While the practice was, that most of the people got married following both rites (a church ceremony and a civil ceremony), it might happen that a couple decided to get married only by church. Many frazioni had a delegation of civil registration which was only authorized to register births, and, taking in consideration the distance between frazioni and central communes, (and think, that at that time distances were an important matter!) many couples married only following the religious rites. It also could happen that civil ceremonies were not into their habits, perhaps due to lack of knowledge about their legal validity. It results in, for example, an act of birth from 1875, referring to a son of an “unmarried” mother, being that woman married by church, in the parish, but not by the civil law, and not registered her marriage in civil records.

In February 11th 1929, the Vatican City State and the Kingdom of Italy signed two agreements to normalize their mutual relations after the Italian Unification: the Lateran Treaty and the Concordat. The Lateran Treaty was the end of former problems between Italy and the Vatican. It was signed by Prime Minister and Head of Government Benito Mussolini on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III (a great political success for them), and by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri for Pope Pius XI, and confirmed by the Italian Constitution of 1948. Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See received exclusive powers and sovereign jurisdiction over the State of Vatican City, which was declared a neutral and inviolable territory. In addition, the Italian State granted the Vatican, financial compensation for its earlier losses.

Under the Concordat, Catholicism became the official religion of the Italian state, with special privileges (particularly in the field of education) defined by state law, and granted the Italian civil validity of the sacrament of marriage, regulated by canon laws.

The Italian marriage today

The marriage can be performed either before a Civil Register Office, or before a minister of the Catholic religion, or other religion admitted by the Italian state. In the latter case the marriage is also valid on the civil level, and is known as concordatory marriage.

Religious marriage

Requirements for the celebration of religious marriage are different from those for contracting civil bond, and also have different causes of invalidity. Discipline on religious marriages are exclusive competence of ecclesiastical courts. It’s possible to validate a religious marriage as a civil marriage, without celebrating both ceremonies. To make it happen it is necessary that:
– The Catholic priest (or priest from other religions) should announce to future spouses articles of the civil code concerning the rights and obligations of spouses.
– Two original records of marriage must be drawn.
– The Certificate of Marriage must be transcribed in civil status books.

This transcription is the most important requirement, since not done, the marriage will not have civil validity. Transcriptions in the civil registry can be made long after the religious wedding celebration, but the validity is “retroactive” at the time that it was celebrated.

Civil Marriage

In this case, the marriage is subject under the Civil Code regulations and is not relevant in religious legislations. The competent authority to settle any conflict are civil courts.
Publications of marriage are exposed through the Civil Status Office. If couples decide to perform both kinds of marriage, civil and religious ceremony, they are also published in parishes.