50 years ago, in Rome, the Pope returned to the Quirinal to the Balzan Prize

50 years ago, May 11, 1963, Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli) entered the Quirinal Palace in Rome to attend the Balzan Awards Ceremony. It was the first time since 1870 that a Roman Pontiff had crossed the threshold of the former papal palace, now the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic but which for more than three centuries had been a papal summer residence. He was received by the President Antonio Segni who during the ceremony proceeded to award the other four Balzan Prizes: to Karl von Frisch (Biology), Paul Hindemith (Music), Andrei Kolmogorov (Mathematics) and Samuel Eliot Morison (History).
The presence of the Pope was an historic and quite unexpected event, since the Balzan Prize for Peace, Humanity and Fraternity among Peoples had already been awarded to the Pope the day before (May 10) in St. Peter’s, by Giovanni Gronchi, Chairman of the International Balzan Foundation and former President of the Italian Republic, with this motivation: "For having contributed to maintaining peaceful relations between Nations, encouraging mutual understanding among peoples and establishing contacts outside the Christian community".
This was also the last public engagement of Pope John XXIII, who died at the age of eighty-two, just a few days later, June 3, 1963.

This unprecedented event (the first official contact between the head of the Catholic Church and the Italian State after the birth of a united Italy and the constituency of the papal territorial power in the Vatican - 1870, Third Italian War of Independence), had a huge impact in the international press and academia. Samuel Eliot Morison himself recorded the events with great verve, in his memoir "Vistas of History", where he wrote: He declared that this ceremony today “is the crown to a long process; and” (turning to President Segni) “by your hands a témoignage of high significance is delivered to him who represents here below the Prince of Peace; your gesture translates, in the most eloquent manner, the unanimous aspiration of men and nations.” (Alfred A.Knopf, New York, 1964: pp 9-10)

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