Cardinal Parolin: the Church is pacifist because she believes in peace

Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, interviewed by the Italian geopolitical magazine, Limes, speaks about the Holy See's diplomacy and its actions in favour of world peace.

"The diplomacy of the Holy See is not linked to a State but to a reality of international law that has no political, economic or military interests.  It is at the service of the Bishop of Rome, who is the pastor of the universal Church.  So begins the interview with the Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin, published in the latest issue of the Italian magazine, Limes, under the title "La Guerra Grande" ("The Great War") and conducted by journalists, Lucio Caracciolo and Guglielmo Gallone.

A less "Eurocentric" Church

Cardinal Parolin discusses various topics, ranging from the diplomacy of the Holy See, which is universal because the "pontifical representatives come from local Churches all over the world" and have a "clear ecclesial function", to geopolitics, which is "indispensable for the best exercise of the diplomatic profession".  He also spoke of the international role of Pope Francis, a symbol with his predecessors of a "less Eurocentric Church" and of a "multi-lateral view of international problems", and of his own activity: "I thank God for having given me the grace, in the various situations in which I have found myself, to be able to accompany the diplomatic mission with a priestly witness, despite the weaknesses and limitations", explains the Cardinal Secretary of State, who does not forget, finally, the universal character of the Church in a complex and fragmented world, characterised by that "third world war in pieces" about which the Pope has been speaking for years.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on the use of weapons

In all this, the compass to follow is unique: the Gospel, "the proclamation of peace, the promise and gift of peace", explains Cardinal Parolin, because "all its pages are filled with it.  The angels invoke it at the time of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.  He himself wished it to his people as soon as he was resurrected.  The Church follows the example of her Lord: she believes in peace, works for peace, fights for peace, bears witness to peace and seeks to build it.  In this sense, she is a pacifist.  As for the use of weapons, the Italian prelate recalled that "the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides for legitimate defence.  People have the right to defend themselves if they are attacked.  But this armed self-defence must be exercised under certain conditions which the same catechism lists: that all other means of putting an end to the aggression have proved impracticable or ineffective; that there are well-founded reasons for success; that the use of arms does not cause greater harm and disorder than those to be eliminated.

Yet the use of weapons is disproportionate and reckless in many parts of the world.  And "war begins in the heart of man," Cardinal Parolin said.  Every bloody insult takes away peace and makes negotiations more difficult.  Moreover, he observes, "the voice of the Pope is often 'vox clamantis in deserto' ('a voice that cries out in the desert').  It is a prophetic voice and a far-sighted prophecy.  It is like a seed sown that needs fertile soil to bear fruit.  If the main actors in the conflict do not heed his words, unfortunately nothing happens and nothing ends the fighting.

War in Ukraine: the risk of a global conflict

Even today, Cardinal Parolin continues, in the terrible war in Ukraine, "there is no willingness to engage in genuine peace negotiations and to accept the offer of mediation between the parties".  However, it is not enough "for one of the parties to propose or assume this unilaterally, but it is essential that both express their will in this sense.  Once again... vox clamantis in deserto'.  But the Pope's words remain a testimony of the highest value, touching many consciences, making people more aware that peace, and war, begin in our hearts and that we are all called to make our contribution to promote the former and avoid the latter.

The Cardinal Secretary of State recognises "the possibility of a negative leap" towards "a real-world conflict".  "I believe that we are not yet able to foresee or calculate the consequences of what is happening.  Thousands of deaths, destroyed cities, millions of displaced people, the devastation of the natural environment, the risk of famine due to lack of grain in so many parts of the world, the energy crisis... How is it possible that we do not recognise that the only possible response, the only viable path, the only viable prospect is to stop the arms and promote a just and lasting peace?

Francis in Kiev and Moscow?

Regarding the possibility of a trip by Pope Francis to the countries in conflict in Eastern Europe, the prelate explains that the Holy Father's greatest desire, "and therefore his priority", is that "through his trips, a concrete benefit can be obtained.  It is in this spirit that he said he wanted to go to Kyiv to bring comfort and hope to those affected by the war.  He has also announced his willingness to travel to Moscow if conditions are truly useful for peace.  Cardinal Parolin also emphasised that the dialogue between Rome and Moscow is a "difficult dialogue, which advances in small steps and also has its ups and downs" but "it has not been interrupted".  The meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill did not take place because "it would not have been understood and the weight of the ongoing war would have affected it too much", he added.

China-Holy See dialogue

An important part of this interview is also devoted to the secret agreement between the Holy See and China.  "The dialogue between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China," says the Cardinal Secretary of State, "which began under the impetus of St John Paul II and continued under the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Francis, led in 2018 to the signing of the provisional agreement on the appointment of Bishops in China.  It was precisely its provisional nature that decided the parties "not to make it public", pending verification of its functioning on the ground and to decide accordingly." "As for the evaluation of the results of the agreement, it seems to me that I can say that steps forward have been taken but that not all the obstacles and difficulties have been overcome and that there is still a long way to go for its proper application and also, through sincere dialogue, for its refinement", notes Cardinal Parolin.

Finally, the Italian prelate hopes "that all diplomatic efforts will adopt a universal perspective, committing themselves to safeguarding dignity and fundamental rights, to defending the weakest and the least of the earth, to working in favour of life and finally learning to 'breathe with the rhythm of universality'".