Prayer Is Key to Pope's Diplomatic Activity, Says Archbishop Tauran

Interview With Outgoing Vatican Secretary for Relations With States

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2003 ( It is impossible to understand John Paul II’s diplomatic activity without the faith, which prompts him to pray before making any major decision, a close aide says.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, who will leave his post as Vatican secretary for relations with states when he is elevated to cardinal next week, talked about his work and his impressions of the Pope, in this interview with Vatican Radio.

Q: For 13 years, you have directed what in inadequate terms is usually called the «foreign policy» of the Holy See. Can you give us an assessment of it and illustrate the prospects?

Archbishop Tauran: When speaking of the diplomacy of the Holy See it must be noted that the Holy See’s first diplomatic agent is the Pope: He it is who confers on diplomacy the force and prestige.

I will give you an example. When the Pope was raised to the Chair of St. Peter in 1978, the Holy See had diplomatic relations with 85 countries. Today, 25 years later, the number has increased to 174.

They have been important years. Let us remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, the African conflicts, the war in former Yugoslavia, this year’s military intervention in Iraq, the peace process in the Middle East, the transformation of the European Union.

All these issues have been the object of work sessions, which we have had constantly over the past 13 years. I have always felt the Pope’s concern for people to be able to live together in virtue of common convictions, and also in virtue of respect for international law.

Q: Among the dossiers you are leaving to your successor, which one is of greatest concern to you?

Archbishop Tauran: I would say, without a doubt, the Middle East — the Middle East with the crisis between Palestinians and Israelis, in the first place, as it is the source of all crises, and I would also say, obviously, the situation in Iraq. I think that this area of the world needs to rediscover the path of reason and fraternity. I think that the international community has the duty to help the disputing parties in this task.

Q: I believe the Holy See proposes the sending of a force to be inserted between Palestinians and Israelis. Is this true?

Archbishop Tauran: Yes, since the year 2000, when the second intifada began, we have always maintained that, given the evident inability of Israelis and Palestinians to consider one another mutually, to talk to one another and to live together, it would be necessary to send to the area a so-called friendly force, capable of saying to both sides: «Stay at home for a month, without attacking one another; then, we will sit down to negotiate.»

I think it is necessary to try to do something, otherwise there will be a catastrophe.

Q: Iraq’s dossier is also still open, obviously …

Archbishop Tauran: Yes, obviously Iraq’s dossier is still open, as Iraq is a member country of the United Nations, hence, a sovereign country which has the right to the same dignity, sovereignty and freedom as the rest of the members states of the U.N.

Because of this, it is necessary to do everything possible so that the Iraqi people will have the conditions to choose their own leaders, their own political system, so that each and all will feel involved in a project of society.

Q: John Paul II celebrates the jubilee of his pontificate this Thursday. What is your assessment of these 25 years?

Archbishop Tauran: I think that in these years the Pope has become the moral «reference» of the world. Suffice it to see the list of personalities who come to visit him.

I think the secret lies in his charism, the greatness of this pontificate, lies, finally, in the Holy Father’s faith. It would be totally mistaken to imagine him sitting in his office, elaborating a «Vatican strategy» with a geographic atlas and voluminous reports. No.

The great decisions of this pontificate have always been made in prayer, before the tabernacle of his private chapel, and I have been witness to this on more than one occasion. There is the key, from my point of view, to understand correctly the unusual radiation of this pontificate.

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