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Vatican’s new top diplomat ready to make Church a champion for peace

By on Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's newly appointed secretary of state (CNS)

Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's newly appointed secretary of state (CNS)

A veteran diplomat, the Vatican’s new secretary of state, plans to put the Church’s vast global diplomatic network into action as a champion for peace.

Archbishop Pietro Parolin said Pope Francis has already injected a new impetus into the Vatican’s Secretariat of State structure and given a new push for Church-led diplomacy.

The archbishop, who is currently the papal nuncio to Venezuela, will start his new role on October 15.

In an interview with the Venezuelan Catholic newspaper, Diario Catolico, Archbishop Parolin said, “The Pope’s initiatives have given the secretary of state an impetus and have also created a new diplomatic momentum.”

When asked if he would be spearheading a new diplomatic offensive for peace, he noted that it was a complicated question but said, “Yes, I hope that we can recoup” that drive.

“We have this great advantage in respect to other churches, to other religions: We can count on an international institutional presence through diplomacy,” he said.

Archbishop Parolin said the Vatican has to take advantage of its vast network of papal nuncios around the world and all the contacts it has with international organisations. “They are precious instruments that can be used to help the world,” he said.

He emphasised, however, that the Vatican’s efforts are not always publicised, but often happen quietly behind the scenes.

“I wouldn’t like a diplomacy that is on the front pages, but a diplomacy that is more effective,” he said.

“We are not looking for, I believe, popularity. In all honesty, none of us wants it without an effect” that is positive.

Archbishop Parolin, who has nearly 30 years’ diplomatic experience, said today’s geopolitical landscape has gone from a world in which nations were clearly aligned into a few cohesive “blocs” to a world of widely divergent powers, some of which have no real national identity.

Instead of an era of greater unity and cohesiveness after the fall of the Berlin Wall, “the whole problem of terrorism was unleashed,” he said. Because the world is so much more complex, he said the secretary of state’s role “must be to re-invent” the never-changing and universal goal of peace and human rights in varying and widely diverse contexts.

“If there is no objective truth in which we all recognise ourselves it will be much more difficult to find things in common,” he said.

“This common ground is the dignity of the human person in all his dimensions,” including the transcendent, the spiritual, social and political, and that all people are created in the likeness and image of God.

Nowhere is this more important right now than in the Middle East, he said in an interview with another Catholic newspaper, La Voce dei Berici.

“The stability of the world is at stake, (as well as) the present and future coexistence of various religions and major ethnic groups,” he said. “Either we head toward a world where we will know how to integrate our differences and turn them into an opportunity for growth or we will head toward total war.”