“The Pope is the Holy See’s number one diplomatic “agent”. He proved himself to be a vigorous diplomat in the Syrian crisis. This made him an authoritative and sought-after voice internationally,” the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin said during an interview with Italian Catholic news daily Avvenire.
Parolin, who will be created cardinal in just a few days time, talked about the current international situation, the reform of the Roman Curia, the role of the Commissions for Reference, the Vatileaks scandal and the “pastoral conversion” Pope Francis has asked the whole Church for.
“The tasks and objectives of papal diplomacy – Parolin explained – are those which the Pope outlined in his first meeting with the various ambassadors to the Holy See in March 2013: to build bridges in order to promote dialogue and use negotiation as a means to solve conflicts, spread fraternity, fight against poverty and build peace. The Pope has no other “interests” or “strategies” and neither do those who represent him abroad... In a diverse world which risks being divided – he continued – Vatican diplomacy can and must stand by the side of people and populations in order to help them realise that their differences are an asset and a resource and to help bridge these differences as peacefully as possible, to build a human and fraternal world, where there is room for everyone, particularly the weak and vulnerable.”
During the interview, Francis’ right-hand man stated that the aim of reforming the Roman Curia is “to turn it into a streamlined, flexible, less bureaucratic and more efficient instrument in service of the Pope, the bishops, the universal Church and the local Churches.” Parolin conceded that “it is not enough to reform the structures, although this is necessary; there also needs to be a permanent personal conversion.”
What the secretary of state said about the Commissions for Reference on the IOR and the economic and administrative structure of the Holy See was also significant: “Their roles and functions were outlined in the documents that established them. I would like to stress that these commissions are temporary bodies of “reference” and their task is to provide the Pope and the Council of Eight Cardinals with suggestions and proposals in their respective fields of expertise.” So they are not intended as a means of counter-balancing the power of the Roman Curia. Their work as well as their mandate is about to conclude.
Moving onto the Vatileaks scandal, Parolin said: “That was an incredibly painful time and I wish and hope with all my heart that it is over for good. What lesson have we learnt from it? The whole affair unfairly caused a great deal of suffering to Pope Benedict XVI and many others, many were dragged into the scandal and the damage done to the cause of Christ was by no means small. I believe that the events in question must not stop us from questioning our true faithfulness to the Gospel. At the same time, however, referring to the way in which the Roman Curia is always portrayed, he said: “It really does sadden me when the Curia is too quickly and violently portrayed in a completely negative light, referring to it as a place where conspiracies are power struggles are rife. We must, however, work really hard in order to become more human, more welcoming and more evangelical, as Francis wants us to be.”
The Secretariat of State then went on to speak about the Institute for the Works of Religion: “I shall not go into detail about the technical solutions found as these are still being studied. What is worth highlighting, are the transparency and adherence to international regulations factors which must become key elements of the profile of the IOR. I should underline also that much has already been done in this direction, under Pope Francis’ instructions. We will continue in this direction so as to ensure that the management of the money and economic and financial activities linked to the life and mission of the Church reflect the principles contained in the Gospel.”
On the subject of Syria, Parolin said: “Unfortunately, the first round of the Geneva II meetings – the Holy See was present at the inauguration in Montreaux – concluded without any concrete conclusions as stated by the UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.
Nevertheless, the steps which the Holy See said should be taken as part of a realistic road map for an end to the conflict and lasting peace still apply now: the immediate cessation of violence, the start of reconstruction, dialogue between communities, progress the resolution of regional conflicts and the participation of all local and global players in the Geneva II peace process. The fact that the two opposing parties spoke to each other for the first time in three years is definitely a very positive sign. But mutual trust needs to grow, as does a political willingness to find a solution by means of negotiation.”
Regarding the “Arab Spring” he said: “The Arab Spring is a complex phenomenon which unfortunately has not achieved objectives such as greater democracy and social justice which seemed to have been the main motivation for the revolts. Naturally, one cannot fail to ask oneself about the extent to which the economic and geo-political interests of the international community contributed to this failure.”
After stating that the “situation faced by Christians in the Middle East is one of the Holy See’s greatest concerns,” Parolin hinted that it would take some time before an economic and financial accord is reached with Israel: “Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the Holy Land will certainly bring us closer to the signing of an agreement. There are just some bureaucratic questions that still need to be resolved and require some more time.”
Parolin defended the Pope against those who called him a “Marxist”: “How can anyone disagree with the Pope’s statement that money must serve not govern? Is it Marxist to call for selfless solidarity and the return to economic and financial actions that shows greater consideration for the human person?”
On the subject of China, the Secretary of State said: The Holy See is very fond of the great country of China and its people. Recently, China too, has sent signs of a renewed interest in the Holy See and Pope Francis’ election has a lot to do with it; he is even a Jesuit, like Matteo Ricci (one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, Ed.). We sincerely hope that trust and understanding will grow among the two parties and that this will happen through a constructive dialogue with the political leadership, a dialogue which the Holy See has always sought and Benedict XVI stressed this in his 2007 Letter to the Church in China.”