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Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History

10/11/2009 - 15:27 PST

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diplomatic nature—the Holy see did not in turn send a diplomatic representative to the Principality—until 2006, and was not at the ambassadorial level. “Passive” diplomatic relations are diplomatic relations where a sovereign state (i.e., Monaco) sends an accredited agent to another sovereign state (i.e., the Holy See), but the sending state (i.e., Monaco) does not receive in turn an accredited diplomatic agent of the receiving sovereign state (i.e., the Holy See), to be permanently resident in its own sovereign territory. The type of diplomatic relations where a sovereign state both sends and receives an accredited diplomatic agent to be permanently resident in its own sovereign territory is known as “active’ diplomatic relations.


On July 25, 1981, the Holy See and Monaco signed a convention which renewed the deep friendship between the government and people of the Principality of Monaco and the Roman Catholic Universal Church of Rome. Mr. Cesar Charles Solamito, who was one of the authors of the July 1981 Convention was appointed the first ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Principality of Monaco to the Holy See by Prince Rainier III on June 10, 1982, thirteen months after the July 1981 convention with the Holy See was signed, and served in this capacity until 1997. In 1999, the role of ambassador of Monaco to the Holy See was assumed by H.E. Ambassador Jean Claude Michel of Monaco. H.E. Jean Claude Michel, who presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II on 20 May 1999, is the second, and current ambassador of Monaco to the Holy See. It is interesting to note that, in his exchange of diplomatic greetings with Ambassador Michel in May 1999, Pope John Paul II recalled his last meeting with the late Prince Rainier III of Monaco on 19 December 1997, the year Monaco commemorated the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi dynasty.


Despite the diplomatic merits of the 1981 convention between Monaco and the Holy See of elevating the rank and stature of Monaco’s representation to the Holy See, the Holy See would not appoint an apostolic nuncio or ambassadorial-level pontifical ecclesiastical diplomatic representative to the Principality until 2006. This change of the Holy See from a passive legation with the Principality to an active legation was due to a change included in the Principality’s new treaty signed in October 2002 with France, replacing the treaty of 1918, that permitted the Principality to establish sovereign diplomatic legations or embassies with representatives holding ambassadorial rank in accordance with the UN Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations promulgated in April 1961—a convention which will mark its 50th anniversary in April 2011. The new treaty between the Principality of Monaco and France was ratified in 2005 and published in the Journal Officiel dated Oct 14, 2005.

Despite having an official Monegasque diplomatic legation at the Holy See, for at least seventy years, from 1915 to 1982, with the Monegasque diplomatic representative only holding the rank of “minister plenipotentiary,” and notwithstanding the fact that Pope John Paul II visited France seven times, and never visited the Principality proper, the historic friendly relations shared between the Catholic Principality of Monaco and the Holy See prompted the heads of state of the Principality of Monaco to make repeated visits to the Roman Pontiff at the State of Vatican City over the years. Starting in 1957, Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco visited the Vatican State on several occasions to pay their sovereign respect to the Vicar of Christ in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace were received by Popes Pius XII on May 6, 1957. Their audience with Pope Pius XII is given some mention in the May 13, 1957 issue of Time magazine,

“The Vatican's Swiss guards, rigged for the occasion in shiny steel breastplates over their blue and gold uniforms, sprang to attention (medieval form, feet splayed) to greet Monaco's Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace on their official visit to Pope Pius XII. Their private audience marked Grace's first meeting with His Holiness. The Pope advised the sovereigns to adhere to an "irreproachable faithfulness to the dictates of Catholic morals." Grace should have many children, said Pius, "so as to secure a healthy Monegasque reigning line, for the good of Monaco's people."

A short black and white film titled, “Princess Grace Visits Pope (1957)” is available for viewing of the audience with Pope Pius XIII on the internet at: www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=32835. Their Serene Highnesses also met with Popes John Paul I and John Paul II in 1978. Select film footage of these diplomatic state visits by Catholic sovereigns, Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco to the Roman Pontiffs at the Vatican was included as special visual accoutrements in the “Official ...

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