Switzerland and Holy See celebrate 100 years of renewed diplomatic relations

Press releases, 08.11.2021

On the occasion of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met in Bern with the Secretary of State of the Vatican, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin. During the official visit, a joint declaration was signed which aims to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in various areas related to peace promotion.

The celebrations, postponed for a year because of the pandemic, mark the centenary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Swiss Confederation and the Holy See, which had been interrupted for about half a century (1873–1920). To mark the anniversary, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Ignazio Cassis, invited Cardinal Pietro Parolin for an official visit to Switzerland. Together they discussed bilateral as well as international issues. In view of the proliferation of armed conflicts and the erosion of fundamental rights around the world, Switzerland and the Holy See have declared their intention to strengthen their joint commitment and cooperation in the bilateral and multilateral spheres in order to consolidate peace and protect human dignity. With that in mind, they have signed a joint declaration which aims to promote peace and human rights in the world. The declaration pays particular attention to the universal abolition of the death penalty, the protection of minorities and inter-religious dialogue.

A rich programme to reflect Switzerland's diversity
Cardinal Parolin's visit to Bern began with a courtesy visit to the president of the Swiss Confederation, Guy Parmelin, who had visited the Vatican in May for the swearing-in of the Swiss Guard. An interdenominational meeting was then held in the historic Rathaus (City Hall) in Bern, organised jointly by the Swiss Reformed Church and the Swiss Bishops' Conference, as a sign of the ecumenical nature of relations between the two denominations. In the afternoon, at the University of Fribourg, Mr Cassis and Cardinal Parolin opened a public lecture on the history of relations between the two states, which was attended by representatives of the political, confessional and philanthropic communities, and a large number of students.

Historical relations with the Holy See
The apostolic nunciature in Switzerland was opened in 1586 in Lucerne and is the oldest permanent representation of the Vatican north of the Alps. In 1873, however, the Kulturkampf (cultural struggle) led to the severing of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the Holy See, which were not resumed until 1920. The Swiss Confederation and the Holy See have a history that goes back centuries. One of the most special and visible ties is the Pontifical Swiss Guard, founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II. The last papal visit to Switzerland was on 21 June 2018, when Pope Francis visited Geneva. On 1 October 2021, the Federal Council also decided to establish a Swiss embassy to the Holy See in Rome, as a sign of its desire to strengthen diplomatic relations between the two states.

Further information:

Bilateral relations Switzerland–Holy See (Vatican City)
Switzerland–Vatican: a shared history with many chapters

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs