Vatican: A New French Ambassador to the Holy See

May 19, 2022
Church of the Trinity-of-the-Monts

By a decree of March 28, 2022 published in the Official Journal on March 29, Florence Mangin was appointed French Ambassador to the Holy See by the President of the French Republic. The post had been vacant since the retirement of Elisabeth Beton-Delègue on December 31.

Florence Mangin, a graduate of the ENA, French Ambassador to Portugal since May 9, 2019, becomes the second woman to hold the position of Ambassador at Villa Bonaparte. Aged 63, the French diplomat knows Italy after having been Minister Counselor at the French Embassy in Rome from 2004 to 2008.

Based at the Portuguese Embassy, ​​she was director for continental Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2015 to 2019. She was also, in 2014 and 2015, coordinator for cyber-security and public data with of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2009 to 2012, she was Ambassador to the United Nations and International Organizations in Vienna.

This is an opportunity to recall one of the functions of the French Ambassador to the Holy See: the management of the “pious establishments” of France in Italy.

The Pious Establishments of France in Rome and Loretto are an institution heir to the pious foundations of French origin that have existed in Rome and Loretto since the Middle Ages. It was in the Carolingian period that the first confraternities and communities were created made up of French people, clerics or lay people, residing in the Eternal City.

These Breton, Lorraine, Franche-Comté or French confraternities had a church and local premises for accommodation of the sick and poor of the colony as well as for pilgrims. Throughout the times prior to the revolution, these national confraternities and their churches had a distinct existence and management.

But the upheavals caused by the French Revolution put an end to this autonomy. Pope Pius VI by a pontifical brief of 1793 united in a single administration the different foundations and institutions and charged Cardinal de Bernis, who had been Ambassador of France to the Holy See for 25 years, to administer the different foundations by appointing him: “Apostolic Visitor of all establishments in Rome and in the ecclesiastical state.”

After the Italian campaign, the instructions given by Napoleon Bonaparte to Cardinal Fesch, his uncle, Ambassador to Rome, included this mention: “One of the first cares of Your Eminence will be to protect the religious foundations which France enjoys in Rome.”

In 1801, under the Treaty of Tolentino, these establishments came under the authority of the French Ambassador. An ordinance of the Duke of Blacas, Ambassador to France in Rome in 1816 and approved in 1817 by King Louis XVIII established the union of these foundations into a single body.

After the capture of Rome in 1870, the King of Italy confirmed the maintenance of this situation by a decree, followed in 1875 by an exchange of letters: “nothing has changed as regards the charitable institutions for the benefit of foreigners....”

Everything was called into question in 1940 with Italy's entry into the war against France: the Pious Establishments were placed in sequestration. This would be lifted in 1943, following the intervention of the Holy See.

In 1956, Ambassador Wladimir d'Ormesson established the current regulations approved by a pontifical brief of Pius XII on September 8 of the same year. The allocation of some of these properties, such as the conventual complex of Trinité-des-Monts, has been the subject of international bilateral agreements between France and the Holy See since 1828.

They now include five churches and their outbuildings: La Trinité des Monts, St. Louis of the French, St. Nicolas of the Lorrains, St. Yves of the Bretons, St. Claude of the Francs-Comtois of Burgundy, The National Chapel of France in Loretto. There are also investment properties in Rome.

The primary vocation of this institution, in accordance with the testamentary provisions of its numerous legatees, is to maintain the religious communities that serve its five churches (the community of St. Louis, convent and rectory of Trinité des Monts, the National Chapel of France in Loretto) .

The Pious Establishments also have the mission of welcoming French-speaking pilgrims to Rome. This institution of the Pious Establishments evolves according to the expectations of pilgrims and, on the occasion of the Holy Year of 1975, led to the creation of the St. Louis of the French Pastoral Center and the reception House of St. Joseph of the Trinité des Monts.

Beyond that, the Pious Establishments contribute to promoting France in Rome by organizing cultural events (seminars, concerts, etc.) and by publishing books.

The Pious establishments are under the authority of the Ambassador of France to the Holy See. The Ambassador is assisted with the supervision of the temporal administration by twelve French notables domiciled in Rome, half ecclesiastics, half lay people, forming a consultative assembly, called the General Congregation, which meets under his presidency.