INTER SANCTAM SEDEM ET LETTONIAE REM PUBLICAM
AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE HOLY SEE
The Holy See and the Republic of Latvia,
Considering that in 1922 a Concordat was signed between the Holy See and the Republic of Latvia, which, given the changes that have occurred at both the national and international levels, should be now replaced by a new international Agreement;
Taking into consideration, on the part of the Holy See, the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the norms of Canon Law, and, on the part of the Republic of Latvia, the principles enshrined in its Constitution and in the International Conventions to which it adheres;
Aware that an important part of the population of the Republic of Latvia professes the Catholic Religion;
Acknowledging the positive contribution of the Catholic Church within the Republic of Latvia to the religious and moral development, the social rehabilitation and reintegration of the Nation;
Wishing to define the juridical status of the Catholic Church, to regulate collaboration in the areas of education and culture and to promote in a stable and appropriate manner religious assistance to the Catholic members of the National Armed Forces and to the Catholics being held in prison;
have agreed the following by common accord:
PART I. THE JURIDICAL STATUS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Section 1. The juridical personality of the Catholic Church
The Holy See and the Republic of Latvia recognise that they are both, within their proper spheres of competence, independent and autonomous. They reaffirm their respect for this principle with regard to the services by which each party, both individually and jointly, intends to promote the greater spiritual and material development of Latvian society.
1. The Republic of Latvia recognises the public juridical personality of the Catholic Church in Latvia.
2. The institutions of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Latvia. which in accordance with Canon Law have the status of public juridical persons, shall also enjoy juridical personality in civil law, according to the legislation of the Republic of Latvia.
3. The competent ecclesiastical authority may ― in accordance with the pertinent canonical norms ― establish, modify, recognise and suppress ecclesiastical juridical public persons. In the case that such changes should affect the existing situation of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Latvia, they shall be communicated to the competent civil authorities, in accordance with the existing legislation of the Republic of Latvia.
The Republic of Latvia recognises the right of the Catholic Church, of the juridical persons dependent upon it, and of individual Catholics to communicate freely and maintain contacts with the Holy See and the other ecclesiastical institutions recognised by Canon Law, including those outside the Country.
As regards freedom of religion, sanctioned by the legislation of the Republic of Latvia and the international agreements to which the Republic of Latvia has adhered, the Catholic Church in the Republic of Latvia, together with its communities and institutions, shall be guaranteed freedom to determine its internal government, to worship and to accomplish its mission through pastoral activities, including those of a social, educational and cultural nature.
The nomination, transfer and removal of Bishops is the exclusive right of the Holy See. The office of Bishop shall be conferred only on priests who are Latvian citizens. Before the publication of the appointment of a diocesan Bishop, the Holy See will, out of courtesy and in confidence, inform the President of the Republic of Latvia.
1. The Republic of Latvia guarantees the inviolability of all places of worship, which may not be used for other purposes without the prior agreement of the competent ecclesiastical authorities.
2. At the request of the ecclesiastical authority, the competent civil authorities or their representatives may intervene in case of emergency, if public order is being gravely threatened, or in order to avoid grave harm to persons or damage to items of particular historical or artistic value. Such a request may be presumed should urgent reasons favour an immediate intervention, in order to limit danger to public order and damage to persons or property.
The seal of the sacrament of confession is recognised as inviolable. Nobody may ever question a Catholic priest on matters connected with a confessional secret, even if that priest should appear as a witness or party before a civil tribunal.
1. From the moment of its celebration canonical marriage produces the civil effects determined by the legislation of the Republic of Latvia, provided no civil impediments exist between the contracting parties and the requisites foreseen by the laws of the Republic of Latvia have been fulfilled.
2. The way and the time within which a canonical marriage is to be registered with the competent civil authority are determined by the laws of the Republic of Latvia.
With respect to the laws of the Republic of Latvia and in view of its legitimate pastoral undertakings, to the Catholic Church shall be guaranteed:
(a) freedom of access to the media and freedom of speech, including the establishment of its own means of social communication and access to those of the State, in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Latvia;
(b) freedom of association of the faithful, in order to promote social, cultural or educational initiatives inspired by the principles of the Christian faith, the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and according to the principles of ecumenism;
(c) access to hospitals, prisons, orphanages and all other institutions of social or medical assistance, in which the presence of Catholics justifies the occasional or permanent pastoral presence of the authorised representatives of the Catholic Church.
The Republic of Latvia guarantees to the Catholic Church the restoration of unlawfully alienated property, in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Latvia through a common accord between the competent State Authorities and the Bishops' Conference of Latvia.
Section 2. THE SHRINE OF AGLONA
1. The Shrine of Aglona is part of the cultural and historical heritage of the Republic of Latvia, and as such is protected under existing legal provisions of Latvia.
2. Besides the building of the Basilica itself, the square in front of the Basilica and the cemetery, the spring area, the territory protected within the Shrine shall include all other buildings, structures and lands belonging to the Catholic Church.
1. In consideration of the international character of the Shrine of Aglona as a place for prayer, pilgrimage and various pastoral activities, and keeping in mind the existing legislation, the Republic of Latvia assumes the duty:
(a) to recognise and respect the religious and historical character of the Shrine;
(b) to guarantee public order during the gatherings included in the schedule of events referred to in Article 13, as agreed either with the local Bishop himself or with the other members of the Bishops' Conference of Latvia;
(c) to contribute towards the maintenance costs of the Shrine in relation to events of national significance;
(d) to grant exemption from or the reductions of taxes in the circumstances foreseen by the laws.
2. For its part, the Holy See shall grant the Shrine of Aglona the status of an "international shrine", as foreseen in Canon Law (cf. can. 1231 ff.).
Each year, before the State budget is drawn up, the Catholic Church shall provide the Cabinet of Ministers with a plan of the events scheduled for the following year which could be of national significance. In agreement with the local authorities, the Cabinet of Ministers shall adopt the measures necessary to meet the requirements of public order and the medical and sanitary needs.
PART II. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Section 1. The teaching of the Catholic religion in schools
The Republic of Latvia recognises the right of parents and their legal representatives, and, in the cases provided for by law, of children themselves, to ensure for their children an adequate religious education in institutes of education through religion classes in State and municipal schools, and the Catholic Sunday schools. The State guarantees this right within the terms established by law and the international treaties binding upon the Republic of Latvia.
The teaching of the Catholic religion shall be conducted exclusively on the basis of a programme approved by the Bishops' Conference of Latvia, in agreement with the Ministry of Education and Science, and shall be undertaken only by qualified teachers who possess a certificate of competence issued by the Bishops' Conference of Latvia; the revocation of which signifies the immediate loss of the right to teach the Catholic religion.
In conformity with the legislation of the Republic of Latvia, the Catholic Church has the right to found institutions of higher formation for teachers of religion which will grant civilly recognised diplomas.
The State authorities of the Republic of Latvia and the Catholic Church will strive, each within its own competence, to ensure that the teaching of the Catholic religion in educational establishments is undertaken with due academic and doctrinal competence, and with concern for the promotion of an ecumenical spirit, reciprocal respect between different religious confessions and equality for all.
Section 2. Catholic Schools
1. The Catholic Church has the right to establish and manage schools at every level, in conformity with the laws of the Republic of Latvia and the norms of Canon Law.
2. The foundation of Catholic Schools shall be requested by the Bishops' Conference of Latvia, the latter acting on behalf of the local Ordinary.
3. Catholic Schools, as well as institutions of higher formation, shall observe the laws of the Republic of Latvia concerning the general norms relating to the national curriculum, to their management and the granting of civilly recognised diplomas.
1. Catholic Schools are entitled to financial support, in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Latvia.
2. Teachers and other employees in officially recognised Catholic Schools, as well as students and their parents, shall enjoy the same rights and have the same obligations as their counterparts in State and local government schools.
Section 3. The Major Seminary of Riga
1. The Major Seminary of Riga is an institution of the Catholic Church in Latvia for the academic formation of ecclesiastical students and the study of Catholic Theology.
2. Recognition of the Major Seminary of Riga as an institute of higher education will be granted by the State in accordance with the law.
3. The diplomas and courses of study of the Major Seminary of Riga, which conform to civil laws and regulations, will be considered valid and equivalent to those of the educational institutions of the State.
4. Within the framework of the law, the State will grant economic assistance to the Major Seminary of Riga to the same extent as it does to other equivalent institutes.
Section 4. The Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Latvia
The reinstatement of the Faculty of Catholic Theology within the University of Latvia will be negotiated in the future between the Holy See and the Government of the Republic of Latvia.
Section 5. The cultural and artistic heritage of the Catholic Church
1. The cultural and artistic heritage of the Catholic Church is to be considered as an important part of the national heritage of the Republic of Latvia. The Republic of Latvia and the Catholic Church assume, by common accord, the duty to ensure its maintenance and care, and to make it accessible to the public, within the limits required for its safe custody and by international law.
2. In accordance with the law, the State will share with the Catholic Church in meeting the cost of cultural and artistic heritage of the Catholic Church.
PART III. RELIGIOUS ASSISTANCE TO THE CATHOLICS
1. The Holy See shall establish within the Catholic Church in the Republic of Latvia a Military Ordinariate which, according to a special memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Defence and the Bishops' Conference of Latvia, shall offer religious assistance to the Catholics within the National Armed Forces of the Republic of Latvia.
2. This Military Ordinariate, which is, according to the Apostolic Constitution "Spiritualis militum curae", canonically equivalent to a diocese, will be headed by a Bishop Military Ordinary.
1. The Military Ordinary, who shall be a Latvian citizen, may at the same time hold the office of a diocesan or auxiliary Bishop.
2. The Military Ordinary will be freely nominated by the Supreme Pontiff, and the President of the Republic of Latvia will be given prior notification of the appointment.
1. The Republic of Latvia shall guarantee to the Catholic members of the National Armed Forces the possibility of receiving adequate catechetical instruction and of participating in Eucharistic Celebrations on Sundays and on Holidays of obligation, provided these do not conflict with urgent official military duties.
2. In conformity with canonical norms, the Military Ordinary will nominate a Vicar General and, in consultation with the competent authority within the National Armed Forces, will designate an appropriate number of Military Chaplains of Latvian citizenship, who may be incardinated in the Military Ordinariate. They will be considered equivalent to a parish priest or an assistant parish priest.
Students of the Major Seminary of Riga and novices of Religious Congregations shall be exempted from military service and may be assigned to a community service equivalent to obligatory military service. In times of general mobilization, such students and novices will be assigned to operations which do not involve the use of weapons.
According to canonical norms, those falling under the jurisdiction of the Military Ordinariate are the following:
(a) Catholic military and civilian personnel of the National Armed Forces of the Republic of Latvia;
(b) the members of their families: spouses and children, including adult children, if they are Catholic and form part of the same household.
1. Chaplains and their assistants, subject to the canonical authority of the Military Ordinary, shall exercise their pastoral service in accordance with the regulations concerning the times and places for pastoral activities and other general conditions issued by the authorities of the National Armed Forces.
2. The Military Ordinariate shall co-ordinate its activities with the Ministry of Defence.
The Ministry of Defence will provide material assistance to the personnel of the Military Ordinariate, in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Latvia, as well as the necessary logistical arrangements for pastoral activities.
PART IV. RELIGIOUS ASSISTANCE TO THE CATHOLIC FAITHFUL
1. In conformity with Article 9 (c) of the present agreement, the Catholic Church has the right to offer religious assistance to Catholics in prisons and other similar institutions of lawful detention.
2. In accordance with the laws of the Republic of Latvia and the norms of Canon Law, the competent authority shall guarantee to prisoners the right to appropriate religious assistance.
PART V. FINAL PROVISIONS
1. The Holy See and the Republic of Latvia shall resolve by common accord and through diplomatic means every doubt or difficulty which may arise in the interpretation or application of the present Agreement.
2. The details of certain specific aspects of this Agreement will be regulated by special documents of understanding between the competent authorities of the Catholic Church and those of the Republic of Latvia.
If the Holy See and the Republic of Latvia were to judge certain modifications to be necessary, on account of some significant changes in the circumstances prevailing at the time of this Agreement, negotiations shall be duly initiated by the Apostolic Nuncio on the one hand and representatives of the Latvian Government on the other.
The present Agreement is subject to ratification according to the proper constitutional and procedural norms of the Holy See and the Republic of Latvia, and shall enter into force on the date of the exchange of the instruments of ratification.
Signed on eight November 2000, in duplicate in English and Latvian, both texts being equally authentic. In case of a different interpretation, the English text shall prevail.
*A.A.S., vol. XCV (2003), n. 2, pp. 102-111