Concordat of 1953

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The Concordat of 1953 was the last classic concordat of the Roman Catholic Church. Concluded by Spain (under the rule of Francisco Franco) with the Vatican. Together with the Pact of Madrid, signed the same year, it was a significant effort to break Spain's international isolation after World War II.

In return for the granting by the Vatican of the "royal patronage" (Patronato real, the privilege of Spanish kings to appoint clerical figures) to Franco, the concordat gave the Church a set of privileges such as state funding and exemption from government taxation.

The Concordat of 1953 superseded the Concordat of 1851 and Franco's 1941 Convention with the Vatican.


Franco's political system was virtually the antithesis of the final government of the republican era, the Popular Front government. In the early years of the Francoist State, church and state had a close and mutually beneficial association.

Franco had wanted a full concordat with royal rights of patronage, the right to choose bishops. The Vatican, uncertain of his future, compromised by offering him a less official "convention" and gave him only a limited role in choosing bishops. Years after World War II, the terms of the Convention of 1941 were formalized in Article 7 of the Concordat of 1953.

In contrast to the anticlericalism of the Popular Front, the Francoist State established policies that were highly favorable to the Catholic Church, which was restored to its previous status as the official religion of Spain. In addition to receiving government subsidies, the church regained its dominant position in the education system, and laws conformed to Catholic dogma.

During the Franco years, Roman Catholicism was the only religion to have legal status; other worship services could not be advertised, and the Roman Catholic Church was the only religious institution that was permitted to own property or publish books. The government not only continued to pay priests' salaries and to subsidize the church but it also assisted in the reconstruction of church buildings damaged by the war. Laws were passed abolishing divorce and banning the sale of contraceptives. Catholic religious instruction was mandatory, even in state schools.

In return for granting the Catholic Church these privileges, Franco obtained the right to name Roman Catholic bishops in Spain, as well as veto power over appointments of clergy down to the parish priest level.


In 1953 this close cooperation was formalized in a new Concordat with the Vatican, which granted the church an extraordinary set of privileges:

  • mandatory canonical marriages for all Catholics;
  • exemption from government taxation;
  • subsidies for new building construction;
  • censorship of materials the church deemed offensive;
  • the right to establish universities;
  • the right to operate radio stations, and to publish newspapers and magazines;
  • protection from police intrusion into church properties; and
  • exemption of clergy from military service.

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