Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Relazioni Tra Santa Sede a Repubbliche Baltiche (1918-1940): Monsignor Zeccbini Diplomatico

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Relazioni Tra Santa Sede a Repubbliche Baltiche (1918-1940): Monsignor Zeccbini Diplomatico

Article excerpt

Relazioni tra Santa Sede e Repubbliche baltiche (1918-1940): Monsignor Zeccbini diplomatico. By Valerio Perna. (Udine: Forum. 2010. Pp. 238. euro14,50 paperback. ISBN 978-8-884-2 06 206.)

Valerio Perna's well-crafted monograph examines the relations between the Holy See and the three Baltic republics during their two decades of independence between the world wars. Having emerged out of the wreckage of the defeated German and Russian empires in 1918 and generally lumped together in the eyes of the world, in fact this trio of tiny states along the Baltic littoral differed widely, not least in their diminishing degree of Catholicity from south to north: from solidly Catholic Lithuania through Latvia, where Catholics amounted to a significant minority; and up to Estonia, where they numbered a scant few thousands of souls.

The author is a historian at the University of Udine. His book confirms that it was the fate of the Baltic countries to be treated as little more than ciphers or matters of secondary interest in the diplomacy of the era, and this was true of the foreign policy of the Holy See, in its own distinctive fashion. Not without reason, the Vatican gave priority to Poland- returned to the map of Europe after more than a century of absence- as the natural focus of its attention in east central Europe and had to fit the Baltic republics into its calculations only on the margins. This complicated the Holy See's dealings with Lithuania, which lost out to Poland in a dispute over custody of the city of Wilno (Vilnius), and nursed a grudge against its larger Catholic neighbor throughout the interwar period.

The central figure in this account, as indicated in the subtitle, is Antonino Zecchini, a Jesuit of Friulian origin, who served as the Vatican's principal representative to the Baltic countries as archbishop and nuncio to Latvia. …

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