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Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the United States

Two Centuries of Allicance and Conflict

Author(s): Franco Massimo


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  • The fascinating and highly relevant history of the turbulent relationship between the United States and the Holy See, recounted and analyzed by Italian journalist and Vatican insider Massimo Franco

    Drawing on unique access to the archives of the Holy See and a range of sources both in Washington, D.C. and Rome, Parallel Empires charts the path of U.S.-Vatican relations to reveal the dramatic religious and political tensions that have shaped their dealings and our world.
    Starting with the Holy Sees initial diplomatic overtures to the United States in the 1780s, Franco illuminates a two-hundred-year-old history of alliances, mutual exploitation, and misperceptions. From the nativist anti-Catholicism of the nineteenth century, through JFKs election as Americas first Catholic president and the cold war anti-Communist partnership between the United States and the Holy See, to the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1984, the story has never before been told quite like this. With U.S.-Vatican affairs still evolving in the present day, Parallel Empires also details the most recent developments of this ever-changing and often-tenuous relationship, including contemporary disagreements over the Iraq War and engagement with the Islamic world, and the Papacy of Benedict XVI.
    Parallel Empires leaves no doubt regarding the impact that the struggle between these two great powers, one of secular might and the other of moral influence, has had on both our history and on todays world. Francos insights are sure to have lasting relevance as U.S.-Vatican relations continue to evolve, and with religions undeniable influence on everything from domestic elections to international terrorism, his work will prove invaluable in coming years.

  • Franco Massimo

    MASSIMO FRANCO writes a daily column for Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, England. Translator ROLAND FLAMINI, reported from Rome for Time magazine in the 1980’s, with a focus on the Vatican.

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    This study is haunted by the great unanswered question of U.S. relations with Catholicisms tiny citadel-why bother having any at all? For much of its existence, the author notes, a virulently anti-Catholic America didnt bother, and it wasnt until 1984 that Ronald Reagan appointed Americas first ambassador to the Vatican. Franco, a columnist for Corriere della Sera, devotes most of his attention to the last three decades, when John Paul IIs anticommunism and the emergence of conservative Catholics as a cornerstone of the Republican base raised the Vaticans profile in American foreign policy. Franco susses out harmonies and dissonances in the current relationship: while the Vatican and the Bush administration line up on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, John Paul II irritated the White House by speaking out against the Iraq War and other American adventures, fearing they would nourish global "Christianophobia." Francos is a nuanced, informative look at this relationship, but his styling of the Vatican and U.S. as "the Wests two parallel empires" overstates a marginal dimension of world affairs. (Jan. 20)

    - Publishers Weekly

    Franco (columnist, Corriere della Sera, Italy) documents the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. government and the Vatican, whose history is not well known. Its a fascinating topic because the Vatican historically regards democracies as heretical, while the U.S. Constitution is committed to the separation of church and state. From 1797 to 1867, the United States had 11 consular officers in the Holy See, but American anti-Catholicism prevented the revival of full diplomatic relations for more than a century after 1867. Even though John F. Kennedy was a Catholic, efforts were made during his presidency to prevent resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican. It was President Reagan who, in seeking the aid of the Vatican in his fight against communism, was able to get Congress to approve an ambassador to the Vatican and accept one from the Vatican to Washington. In offering a detailed history of the relationships between these two "empires," Franco tends to favor the Vaticans viewpoint and downplay the issue of the separation of a secular state from the affairs of religion. Because Italy is now itself a secular state, his approach to the topic becomes even more curious. Nevertheless, the book is a valuable contribution to a little-known story. Recommended for academic libraries.

    - James A. Overbeck - Library Journal

    "Massimo Francos Parallel Empires fills a void in the history of the relations between the Vatican and the United States with an original, accurate, and well-informed book. He shows a deep understanding and knowledge not only of U.S. politics but of the Vatican as well: a double competence which is a quite rare gift."

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Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the United States