With the victory over Austria in the First World War, Italy purchased the Brenner border, together with South Tyrol. Among the problems created by the new arrangement, it must be considered the situation of the diocese of Brixen, one of the two dioceses, along with Trent, situated on the new Italian territory. The diocese was vacant from the end of the war. It was very extensive and included within its borders also North Tyrol, which would remain, instead, out of the new Italian border. A bishop, Monsignor Waitz, had already been appointed by the Austrian Emperor before his abdication. To the Italian authorities as well as to the Holy See, however, it was clear that the Waitz candidacy had to be reconsidered due to his political profile, which was inclined to anti-Italian feelings. At the same time, it seemed necessary to mark new borders to the diocese, to permanently separate the Austrian part from the Italian one. On the contrary, the local clergy and the people wished to maintain the diocese’s unity in view of a future reunion with Austria, while Waitz did not intend to give up his candidacy. The essay reconstructs the steps of this troubled debate between local and Roman Catholic hierarchies and the Italian military and civil authorities, based on both edited and unpublished archival records.
Keywords: Relations between Italy and the Holy See, religion and politics, religion and nationalism, South Tyrol, First World War, post-war period