cod. 1011664

Academic year 2023/24
2° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Storia delle relazioni internazionali (SPS/06)
A scelta dello studente
Type of training activity
Student's choice
42 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The relations between state and non-state actors in the international system belong to the specific object of study of the discipline of the history of international relations. Among these non-state actors is undoubtedly included in its own right the Holy See (or Apostolic See), as an entity that, with different positions and roles in the course of history, holds a relevant, sometimes decisive, place on the world scene. The aim of the course is to make students aware of how this almost sui generis role of the Holy See has been consolidated and recognised in the diplomatic practice of the past and present. The Holy See, in itself the central government of the Catholic Church and the holder of the oldest diplomacy in the world, continues to operate in international relations not as a territorial power, but in its uniqueness as a subject of international law that is regardless of the entitlement of any temporal power.



Course unit content

After a preliminary overview of the language of diplomacy and some fundamental concepts and definitions (Holy See, Church, Papal State, Temporal Power), the course will examine the diplomatic activity of the Holy See in its quality as a subject of international law and as a true non-state actor on the world scene. A brief historical excursus on the origins of papal diplomacy from the apostolic age to modernity will precede the analysis of the structure and functioning of the pontifical diplomatic apparatus, focusing in particular on the articulations of the Roman Pontiff's Secretariat of State, as the body responsible for dealing with the governments of states (such as the stipulation of Concordats or similar agreements) and for managing papal representation at international bodies and conferences. The second part of the course will focus on the analysis of some historical turning points in the last two centuries of the Holy See's relations with civil governments: from the period of transition between the Ancien Régime and the contemporary age, with the long progress of rapprochement between Rome and the British Court; to the activity of papal diplomacy in the Restoration established by the Congress of Vienna (1814-15); to the problematic Roman Question, which significantly involved the relations of the Apostolic See with the Great Catholic and non-Catholic Powers, until its settlement with the “Conciliazione” of 1929; to the Pontiffs' attitude towards war and, in particular, on the occasion of the two world wars; to the public interventions and, at the same time, the silent work of papal diplomacy during the Cold War and in order to resolve it.

Full programme


In order to prepare for the examination, in addition to the lecture notes, please refer to the following volumes.
1) M. F. Feldkamp, La diplomazia pontificia. Da Silvestro I a Giovanni Paolo II. Un profilo, Jaca Book, Milano, 1998.
Attending students may substitute this text with lecture notes.
2) U. Castagnino Berlinghieri, Diplomazia senza Stato: Santa Sede e Potenze europee. Le relazioni con la Duplice Monarchia austro-ungarica e con la Terza Repubblica francese (1870-1914), Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 2013.
3) Due saggi a scelta tratti da Fede e Diplomazia. Le relazioni internazionali della Santa Sede nell’età contemporanea, a cura di Massimo de Leonardis, EduCatt, Milano, 2014.

Teaching methods

Lectures will be supplemented by slide presentations for the analysis of treatise and concordat texts and historical maps. Seminar meetings and lectures with experts and scholars are also planned.
The lectures are intended to focus the student's attention on the proposed course of study in as broad an overview as possible and to provide him/her with the keys to interpretation and the methodological approach to be applied to what he/she will face in his/her personal study. They therefore represent a complementary enrichment to the volumes indicated and do not claim to exhaust or treat with the same degree of thoroughness all the subjects of the syllabus. It remains up to the sensitivity and maturity of the learner to be able to benefit from the lessons in the terms outlined above.

Assessment methods and criteria

According to the stated educational objectives, the examination consists of a two or three-question oral interview aimed at testing not only knowledge and understanding of the themes of the course programme, but also the ability to apply the methodological instruments gained and to be able to synoptically correlate historical events. The final assessment, calculated out of 30 marks, is based upon the candidate's ability to synthesise and analyse a historical problem, the exactitude regarding at least the most significant historical data, the correctness of the presentation and the vocabulary of the discipline.

Other information