Very rare passport for the Second Vatican Council

Using rare and very rare words excessively

Nowadays, we see the frequent use of the wording “rare” and “very rare” just as an eye-catcher. I believe I use this wording carefully. Its use is definitely justified for this extraordinary Holy See passport issued in 1964 for the Second Vatican Council, where 2800 Bishops from all over the world participated in four sessions from October 11, 1962, until December 8, 1965.

This passport was issued to Dino Radulfo Delgrange

I could not find any online data, but I contacted Father Richard Kunst, an expert in papal artifacts. However, it seems Delgrange was one of the auditors of the council. His passport says Auditor, not Father!

Father Richard’s Papal Collection

What I already found out during my research is that such a document is exceedingly rare. The papal collection of Father Richard has three such passports issued for participants of the II Vatican Council, and he stated he has never seen another in the last 25 years. Well, I hope he will reply to my request, so he can also see mine, the fourth document known. Where are all the others? Destroyed? Returned or in archives? I am sure if in archives, then Father Richard would know.


We are talking about the 1960s while Communist governments were at the height of their power. And so, the Vatican wanted to make sure it would secure the safety of all the bishops throughout the world. Many of them were traveling from Communist countries and other countries that maybe had political situations that were less stable.

This passport was actually issued to ensure that he would have as safe travel as the Holy See as a State could grant.

A unique council

The council was unique in that it went in and out of sessions throughout several years. Imagine the amount of traveling the bishops must have done, just going back and forth from their nations. It must have been not easy. Just think of how different travel was in the 1960s compared to today. And there were 4 sessions, so they went back and forth each time. It always began in the Fall and ended in December. Passport Second Vatican Council

October 11, 1962, to December 8, 1962
Sep 29, 1963, to Dec 4, 1963
September 14, 1964, to November 21, 1964
Sept 14, 1965, to Dec 8, 1965

So as you can see, there was a lot of travel that these bishops had to do. The passports ensured their safety. This reminds us again of the universal nature of the Church. Over 2800 bishops from around the world participated in one or more sessions of the Second Vatican Council. These bishops from all over the world, from all nations, came together during that time. Their passports have several pages, and each of the pages says the same thing but in many different languages. For example,

Hamlet John Cicognani
Cardinal-Bishop of the Holy Roman Church
of the Title of the Suburban See of Frascati
Secretary of State
His Holiness Pope Paul VI

requests all Civil and Military Authorities to permit the bearer, who is one of the Fathers (Auditors) of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, freely to pass, and in case of need, to provide him with every opportune assistance and protection.   Passport Second Vatican Council

From the Vatican, 1964.


Very rare Vatican passport 1964

One of the 50 passports issued for auditors for the Second Vatican Council in 1964

Passport Details

So we can see the English words right here, requesting safe transport and safe travel. Of course, many of those bishops had to travel through several countries to get to Italy. So, they were crossing several borders, and that accounts for the number of languages.

Even though it’s not a military authority, we see the political authority–the Holy See authority to issue passports. Of course, you could have a country not recognize it or not even appreciate or honor it. But the fact that the Vatican, as a nation, can produce passports is quite an interesting thing considering that it’s the smallest country in the world. Passport Second Vatican Council

Death of Pope John XXIII

Another interesting thing about this item is the coat of arms on the passport’s cover. It is that of Pope John XXIII who opened the Council. He died after the First Session. Passport Second Vatican Council

So when we think about this Council, we think of the two popes, John XXIII and Paul VI. John XXIII called the Council, and he was the only Pope for one session. But Pope Paul VI was the pope for three of the sessions. So both are equally associated with the Council for those reasons. They are two very historically significant popes, due to the fact of the Council itself. Also, John XXIII was elected to be a ‘transitional pope,’ supposedly, because he was an older man. After a long pontificate, like Pius XII, who was Pope for 19 years, they thought they’d elected a transitional Pope. Instead, he was the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council.  Passport Second Vatican Council

The Auditors

Much has been written and is still being written as part of the Council’s commemoration, history, and development. An important but perhaps less known aspect con­cerns the experience of the lay auditors/guests. For the first time, their presence was something new: the laity was summoned to the Council as christifideles. Although laypeople sometimes participated in previous Councils, it was always as representatives of civic power. Passport Second Vatican Council

What do we know about this?

The histor­ical archives of the Pontifical Council for the Laity contain documents that clarify some as­pects of the lay presence. Without claiming to offer exhaustive information, it is interesting to look again at some of the testimonies of that history which bore such fruit and continue to do so today.

During the first session of the Council, the only one presided over by Blessed John XXIII, there was a lay delegation at the opening session, but there were no lay auditors at the discussions: the only guest was Jean Guitton, the fa­mous French Catholic intellectual, along with the ecumenical delegates. Lay auditors started being invited at the second session presided over by Paul VI. In the initial stages, there were twelve guests, all-male. Apart from Guit­ton, these included Silvio Golzio (Italy), Mieczyslaw de Habicht (Poland), who was dele­gate for the auditors, and Vittorino Veronese (Italy), president of the first two world congress­es of lay Catholics.

Special Tribune

The auditors took their places in the Basili­ca in a special tribune near Saint Andrew’s statue to the right of the presidential table. There were no specially assigned places. They had their own secretariat in Borgo Santo Spiri­to, near Saint Peter’s. This was run by several women engaged in the Lay Apos­tolate and who took turns in offering their serv­ices. This is why some people main­tained that women were “ on the threshold ” of the Council during the second session. During the third and fourth sessions, the group of audi­tors was extended to include both religious and laywomen. There were forty auditors at the third session, of whom 17 were women, while their number increased in the fourth session. Passport Second Vatican Council

Auditor Names

The following were among the auditors present at the third and fourth sessions: Eusèbe Adjakpley (Togo), José Alvarez Icaza (Mexico) with his wife Luz, Frank Duff (Ireland), Josè Maria Herandez (Philippines), Rosemary Goldie (Australia), Patrick Keegan (Great Britain), Marie­Louise Monnet (France), Mar­garita Moyano Llerena (Argentina), Gladys Parentelli (Uruguay), Bartolo Peres (Brazil), Anne­Marie Roeloffzen (Holland), Joan Vasquez (Argentina).

Instrumental contribution

Another important contribution was the au­ditors work in the commissions and subcommissions, which drafted the documents to be voted by the council fathers in the main Coun­cil Hall. Alongside the work of the experts, the contribution of the auditors was instrumental in the commission which prepared the draft on the lay apostolate, which eventually became the decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, as well as in the commission which prepared the draft on the Church in the modern world, the future Gaudium et Spes. Passport Second Vatican Council

At times, the auditors were invited to address the conciliar assembly. In the second session, they spoke briefly to express their gratitude for the invitation. In the third session, Patrick Keegan, the English auditor, delivered the first intervention on the lay apostolate on their behalf in English. Later, Jean Guit­ton spoke at the end of the intervention on ecu­menism, Juan Vasquez on the draft on the Church in the modern world, while James Nor­ris spoke in Latin on poverty in the world.

Dur­ing the fourth session

interventions were given by Eusèbe Adjakpley on missions and Vittorino Veronese at the closing of the Council, to thank the Council fathers. All the auditors agreed on the texts of the interven­tions. The wealth and depth of these testimonies can be assessed by examining the archival documents that illustrate their work and experiences, as well as by studying the documents themselves, which, in their final form, encompassed the entire experience of the Second Vatican Council. (Source: Pontifical Council for the Laity) Passport Second Vatican Council

So we know now the function of these auditors, and we know that the number of auditors was about 50. 2800 Bishops and 50 auditors. Dino Radulfo Delgrange was one of them. Now, in my opinion, this makes this passport even more special! As Delgrange was only one of about 50 “ordinary” people, called auditors, at the council.


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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...