Vatican Media Screenshot

Cardinal Parolin’s Lectio Magistralis for Opening of Academic Year of Catholic University of the Sacred Heart

‘A Diplomacy to Work for Peace.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Here is a translation of the Lectio Magistralis given by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, in the Aula Magna of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart on Thursday, November 28, on the occasion of the opening of the Academic Year 2019-2020, entitled “A Diplomacy to Work for Peace.”

* * *

The Cardinal Secretary of State’s Lectio Magistralis


University Chancellor,

Illustrious Professors,

Dear Students,

Gentlemen and Ladies,

  1. I am sincerely grateful for the Chancellor’s invitation to me to take part in such an important and central event in the life of this Academic Institution, esteemed instrument in the formation of the young generations, with an identity firmly anchored in the Italian reality, which doesn’t fail, however, to open itself to a global dimension. And if this is true of the profile of research and of didactics in the different disciplinary sectors, it emerges also in the fact that the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart remains custodian of the commitment of the Italian ecclesial community to link, through academic activity, the Christian message to the different sciences and disciplines. An essential aspect of its identity, which is called to renew itself continually to be able to pick up what emerges from the cultural debate and give joint answers to the testimony of faith. In fact, the Doctrine of the Church, very conscious of the autonomy of the temporal realities, calls the People of God, through all possible ways, to foster the necessary interaction between science, with its theories and its discoveries, and the Christian vision “so that the religious sense and moral rectitude proceed hand in hand with scientific knowledge and with the continuous progress of technology.”[1]

The Church, after all, gives great attention to the efforts made daily in the realm of knowledge and learning but not failing to evaluate, from time to time, their meaning and scope. And <she does this> to encourage the adoption of solutions and advantages for the good of the person, of his expectations, of his fundamental rights, thus knowing <that she> contributes to that social cohesion so necessary and expected today. In fact, a country’s future will only be able to be built through the common commitment of its different components, geared to fostering development, growth, formation, competence, but without sacrificing the stability of the institutions and respect for their action, and never forgetting the values that are part of the identity of a people and of a nation. This will make it possible to address and overcome the adversities and challenges that every era proposes, thus avoiding their being able to be transformed only into vehicles of insecurity and resignation. A method that calls for an active role of the University no longer thought of as dispenser of theoretical learning or as environment that is pleased with the goals achieved by its students or by its docents, but a University as subject capable of opening itself not only to the challenges, but to overcome narrow barriers through study, knowledge, and analysis of what surrounds it. By operating in this way it will be able to find ever wider fulfillment of the appellation “catholic” which distinguishes it: “for that sort of universal humanism, the Catholic University dedicates itself completely to research of all the aspects of truth in their essential connection with the Supreme Truth, which is God,”[2] as the “Programmatic Charter” of Catholic Universities reminds.

These are only brief considerations on the dimension and the mission of a Catholic University called to concur with the building of increasingly new prospects for the community of men. Considerations that refer us to a reflection of Pope Francis, who calls the University world to operate in such a way as to incarnate the Word of God for the Church and for humanity, enriching such a mandate, however, with a wider goal. In fact, the Pope says: “It’s important that students and docents feel themselves pilgrims called to proclaim the Good News to all peoples, not being afraid to risk and to dream of peace for all persons and all nations.”[3] Therefore, peace is also an essential objective of University life and of its diverse components and functions.

Permit me, then, in this moment, which opens officially a new year of study, research, and activity, to pause and propose to you some reflections on the work in favor of peace, exercised by the Holy See and by its diplomacy. It’s not only about narrating the nature of the diplomatic action that the Bishop of Rome has always exercised through his representatives but about underscoring the function and contribution in regard to contemporary situations and the capacity to influence concrete problems.

Peace, in fact, if it remains a “profound yearning of human beings of all times,” as Saint John XXIII describes it in Pacem in Terris, does not detach itself from the facts, from the contrasts and from the exigencies of daily living, whose protagonists, or at least spectators, are persons, including diplomats. Pope Francis explained it very well last Sunday, going to two symbolic places, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where for the first time nuclear armaments were used in war to put an end to the War: “Peace and international stability are incompatible with any attempt to build on the fear of mutual destruction or under a threat of total annihilation; they are only possible from a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation at the service of a future modeled by the inter-dependence and by the co-responsibility of the entire human family of today and of tomorrow.”[4] It is a clear position taken in the wake of those elements already stressed by the Pontiff himself, regarding the gifts and personal behavior of those that, as diplomats, are called to be peace workers. They are asked to inspire all behavior to humility, to sweetness, and to magnanimity because “peace cannot be given without humility. Where there is pride, there is always war, always the desire to win over the other, of believing oneself superior. There is no peace without humility and there is no unity without peace.”[5] An indication of which the direct correlation is obtained between peace and diplomatic action, in which it is evident that personal attitudes are essential vehicles of peace, including those that seem of minor importance.

  1. Experience shows us that, in as much as they approach the Holy See’s diplomatic action, a question is always present: for what end does pontifical diplomacy act? To give an answer, historical reasons can be recalled here — I believe that the argumentations of Balladore-Pallieri and of Vismara, illustrious docents of this Athenaeum,[6] are still valid — and to affirm that it is about an action pursued in continuity in the course of centuries or perhaps one can read there following the course of events and of the decisions adopted. Often, however, we omit to indicate that we are in face of an action developed following the forms of permanent diplomacy, which have seen and see the Holy See as part of that network of stable relations between the Nations that, with all possible limits, represents also today an instrument at the service of human coexistence and of the aspiration to security, to stability, and to peace. Pontifical diplomacy, in fact, although firmly anchored by its nature to tasks that are first of all ecclesial, which put it at the service of the universal mission of the Church, remains projected in the work of guaranteeing ordered global coexistence, that hoped-for peace which, far from being balanced, is in the first place synonym and effect of justice.[7]

Of course, in the case of pontifical diplomacy, it is always good to recall that it constitutes an essential element for the internal life of the Church, and, namely, for the reality of a community of believers with its spiritual and societal asset between them, united by an inseparable bond.  In fact, with his service, the Pontifical Representative engages in direct collaboration with the mission of the Successor of Peter, manifesting, that is, in a visible way the interest and solicitude of the Pope for the local Churches present in the different Regions. Through his Representative, the Bishop of Rome establishes a vital and necessary relationship, which contributes to making the true image of the Church emerge, as a reality of communion between the center and the periphery. A communion that today Pope Francis sees as instrument to overcome differences and to prevent antagonisms and divisions, pointing out that the function of the diplomat imposes ”to remain impartial and objective so that all parties find in him a just arbiter who seeks sincerely only to defend and protect justice and peace, without ever letting himself be involved negatively.”[8]

The link to peace is continuous and enables one to read the figure on which the Pontifical diplomacy, following the norms and language that are proper to diplomacy, is structured to transform peace from being only a sentiment to a method: to foster an international coexistence made of friendship, respect, and mutual attention. As is easy to intuit, I believe that to understand the relationship between pontifical diplomacy and peace, it is necessary first of all to evidence this method and not only remember episodes. The latter, in fact, are not lacking and are also known, differently by the criteria, by the reflections and by the ultimate end that determine and inspire it.

Therefore, looking at the structure of pontifical diplomacy, the objective of full communion between the Roman Pontiff and the local Churches is not only essential for the life and activity of the latter, but is also the characteristic when it operates with the different countries and, consequently, with the Governments. The communion in the Church and of the Church is essential to the ways of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples and is at the base of every dialogue.

And it is precisely dialogue that has always been desired, even in the most difficult situations, to establish itself and develop for the sake of peace. We can say that for the Holy See it’s about a structured commitment, geared, namely, to know the facts and the situations, interpreting them in the light of evangelical principles and of international laws, never leaving out the elements that, however, can only favor concord minimally and not opposition, the solution of disputes and not their expansion. With its diplomatic action, the Holy See will “always be available to collaborate with all those committed to putting an end to the conflicts underway and to give support and hope to the suffering populations.”[9]

Shortly before I made reference to the great encyclical on peace of Saint John XXIII, of which are noted the historical predicaments that motivated its writing: the danger of a new World War of unpredictable results, the race towards sophisticated armaments and spectral in the effects, the crisis between the two superpowers of the time. However, it’s often forgotten how much diplomat Angelo Roncalli did his utmost for peace in his service in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France. The contents of his Journal of a Soul attest to it, the literary coffer where he liked to annotate events and circumstances, which involved him in his mission as a pontifical diplomat. Well, suffice it to read a few lines to have clearly the weight of his desire to work for peace. On November 26, 1940, at the height of World War II, he wrote: “The law of life for souls and for peoples determines justice and universal balance, the limits in the use of riches, of enjoyments, of worldly power. In the measure that this law is violated, the sanctions are applied automatically, which are terrible and inexorable. No State escapes it — to each one its hour. War is one of the most tremendous sanctions. It is not willed by God but by men, by nations, by States through those that represent them. Men will go to war, with open eyes, despite all the most sacred laws. Therefore, it’s all the more grave. What determines it, what foments it is always the “princeps huius mundi” (John 12:31) that has nothing to do with Christ, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 5:6).”[10] An indication that brings us to the most profound roots of pontifical diplomacy and that allows us to find again the method, still valid today even in the face of the multiple realities, also painful, present in international relations. War, the violation of principles and norms, the loss of the sense of humanity are realities that we live and which are accompanied by uncertainties and dark prospects. In face of such a picture, the objective of the Holy See is to render operative the Christian vision and the ecclesial magisterium, combining it always with the relationship between the central government of the Church and the local realities, with their exigencies and peculiarities. A task that, when it’s about trying to build peace concretely, is expressed with a methodology based on knowledge, perseverance, and discernment, in which the proclamation of the Word and the ecclesial dimension also find space and protection. First of all to guarantee to the Church her being able to continue in her mission of proclaiming the Mystery of Salvation. Knowledge, perseverance, and discernment, then, are essential in an ambit, such as the diplomatic, where the anxiety to prevent and resolve controversies to establish a peaceful coexistence, coexist with the affirmation of interests on the part of one who obtains the mutual failure to listen between the parties and the will to withdraw from dialogue. And this despite all being aware of the positive effects that stem from listening and dialogue.

  1. The scenario of international relations is described in general as a place of encounter and dialogue among political, economic, cultural and even different religious views. And it is in this diversity that any action geared to guarantee the future of relations between nations, as well as their stability, continues to find inspiration, to foster what the magisterium of the Church identifies as “international order.” It is about that complex of fundamental values and principles, common to different peoples and civilizations, which constitute the bearing axis of international law, from which customary norms stem and are flanked, or deriving from treaties or conventions, as an expression of the conduct and will of the members of the Community of Nations.

For the Pope’s diplomats, therefore, the objective of peace is divided by a generic question of peace and is concretized first of all in foreseeing the assumptions and modality that can favor it. Perhaps it’s also because of this that the parties in an argument in making an appeal to a true and proper reconciliation, to put an end to conflicts, call for the direct involvement of the Holy See. In these cases the latter acts by fostering true dialogue, also when dialogue presupposes the presence and the contribution of one who is uncomfortable or one who, in keeping with a traditional view, does not seem to have the legitimacy of an actor in a negotiation. The duty not to exclude, but include pontifical diplomacy is experienced and lived through the effort of combining the goodwill of the many parties in conflict to initiate pacification. I am thinking, among the most recent cases, of the peace process initiated in Colombia where pontifical diplomacy did not fail to offer a contribution; or to the situation in Nicaragua, which witnesses the Pope’s Representative in the country taking part as “observer” in the conversations for national reconciliation, as well as the role carried out in the cyclical crises in countries of Africa, as in the case of Mozambique, object of the Holy Father’s attention in <his> recent trip to that country.

Likewise, such orientation is detectable on the multilateral plane, as the effective contribution demonstrates furnished by the elaboration of the Global Compact on migrations, asylum and the more extensive chapter of human mobility or the persevering support of efforts to regulate disarmament and the use of armaments of destructive and injurious effects on the traditional principle of humanity, which inspires the regulation of conflicts.

Well this action, which willingly flees from notoriety, follows the criterion of linking expertise in humanity — as Paul VI liked to describe it — to a cure, to a pedagogical action geared to the parties that combat one another or oppose one another. The whole because they inspire their conduct in the recognition of the authority of international law to initiate from its fundamental principles of sovereign equality, of territorial integrity, of the non-use of force, as well as of cooperation geared to a development thought out in loco and therefore prepared to use to the best the external contributions. A work that is certainly complex, but which inserts the Holy See’s action in that operative diplomacy that involves the States in mutual relations, as well as their presence and action in multilateral Institutions.

To operate according to such modality gives the Holy See the full awareness of not exercising power or seeking privileges of the sort. After all, it would be a quite modest exercise given what is specific of its nature and of its mission, quite different from that of States. It acts to feel part of the life and of the essential needs of the human family, as well as of a country’s society, to be close to families, to groups of every inspiration and creed, and not only to the communities of Catholics.

In addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, on January 7, 2019, Pope Francis offered further light on such a formulation: “Obedience to the spiritual mission, which flows from the imperative that the Lord Jesus addressed to Peter: “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15), drives the Pope — and hence the Holy See — to be concerned with the entire human family and of its needs, including in the material and social order. However, the Holy See does not intend to interfere in the life of States, rather it aims to be an attentive listener and sensitive to the problems that have to do with humanity, with the sincere and humble desire to put itself at the service of every human being.”[11]

Pontifical diplomacy, that is, in placing side by side the experience of the Church with the instruments put at the disposition of international law, shows how much at heart it has the fate of peace in its different declinations. Therefore, it supports the efforts geared to seeking a peaceful solution of controversies, integral development, and not only economic growth, respect of human rights and the care of our common home.

Someone could object that it’s about theoretical objectives or in any case little inclined to be pursued in international practice made up, rather, of pragmatic solutions. However, how long can a peace last imposed by the force of arms? What development can peoples and countries attain if they are only recipients of aid and assistance linked to urgencies? It’s not difficult to understand that the antithesis to conflict lies in the removal of the foreseen causes that provoke it and therefore in rendering operative the necessary means, in many cases already noted and foreseen; or that underdevelopment and poverty are consequences of structural deficiencies, of insufficient or downright absent formation and of the unavailability of adequate technologies.

  1. The Holy See and, therefore, its diplomacy are bearers of the conviction that international action must issue from the logic of acting only in face of emergencies hopefully to stop them momentarily. The idea of sustainability so proclaimed today must become real not only in facing in continuity the problems and the challenges but in planning the necessary solutions. It can certainly be held that the goal is ambitious, but it cannot be denied that it is what international law requires of diplomacy.

Moreover, if we look at the advantages that could derive for the community of Peoples, such a commitment becomes essential and every doubt is dissolved. Therefore, it’s about furnishing a reasoned and effective support, based on the rules and attentive to their respect, aware that the first cause and ultimate end of every human action is the person in his material and spiritual, individual and communal dimension On this point, permit me to stress that the analyses, the comments and also the persuasion of those that decree the crisis of diplomacy — we hear it resound daily in the media — cannot ignore the need an instrument, perhaps the only one, which allows a permanent relationship between sovereignty or between one who represents the fate of peoples and nations. What emerges today in international relations makes everyone aware that diplomatic activity can have its weight and its effects only when it succeeds in being an effective instrument of service to man’s cause and not simply to the national interest. This entails a daily effort geared not only to know the situations but also to interpret them and thus provide the necessary solutions, even when everything seems dark and every intervention impossible. In fact in face of the difficulties, Pope Francis entrusts to diplomacy the task to develop original ideas and innovative strategies “so that, with greater creative daring, new and sustainable solutions are sought.”[12]

It is an essential indication that thinks of a living diplomacy, which operates as a privileged instrument to build peace, overcoming crises and resolving oppositions, but also uniting divergent ideas, opposing political ideas, and even distant religious visions. In regard to this last aspect, which seems to me essential for diplomacy’s vitality, I would like to make reference to different ways in which the Holy See acts through the instruments and the realms of international relations.

First of all, the prophetic action of the Roman Pontiff through doctrinal addresses, in Apostolic Journeys, in the relationship with Heads of State and of Government, with public authorities, in visits to the headquarters of International Organizations. And here references to peace are so many, as the encyclicals Pacem Dei Munus Pulcherrimum of Benedict XV of 1920, and the mentioned Pacem in Terris of 1963, as well as the addresses at the UN of Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, all with different shades and accents, united however by only one indicator: “If the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, without secondary ends, as an obligatory point of reference of justice and not as an instrument to mask ambiguous intentions, results of peace are obtained .”[13]

Then the need to establish diplomatic relations with States, today a good 180, with different traditions, religious and ideological views. The Holy See knows well that the present configuration of the International Community is no longer that of the “Communitas Gentium Christianarum” in which modern diplomacy was developed and in which “ad Papam pertinet facere pacem inter principes christianos,” but it is a plural reality in the conceptions and in the ways of understanding. This imposes on him the need to seek points of contact in regard to the Doctrine of the Church, those semina Verbi, the rays of His truth” as John Paul II described them.[14] Therefore, it’s not about substituting itself to other instances that operate in the international context, or of failing in the imperative “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). It means, rather, that the Pontifical Representative is called among other things, to make himself interpreter of the “solicitude of the Roman Pontiff for the good of the country in which he exercises his mission; in particular, he must be interested with zeal in the problems of peace, of progress and of the collaboration of peoples, in view od the spiritual, moral and material good of the whole human family.”[15]

Last but not least its presence must be considered in the universal, regional or group inter-governmental Organizations whose competence ranges over the different sectors in which countries’ interests are manifested and the more general ones of the human family. Its presence in a multilateral allows the Holy See to pursue the great objective of peace, declining it in its different shades: from disarmament to development, from education to intellectual property, from trade to telecommunications and one could continue. The Church has always held its importance and function, as Pope Francis did recently when questioned about the role of international institutions, he stressed: “When we recognize it and give it the capacity to judge at the international level — we think of the International Court of The Hague or of the United Nations –, when they pronounced themselves, if we are only one humanity, we must obey. [. . .] Therefore the United Nations was created, international courts were created, so that, when there is some internal conflict or between countries, they can go there to resolve it as brothers, as civilized countries.”[16] An even more necessary support today in the face of the impasse that often assails multi-lateral Institutions and the diplomacy linked to them. A crisis that pontifical diplomacy notes and studies, but which it certainly cannot share, much less so adding itself to the chorus of those that decree the uselessness of the multilateral forum, perhaps to advance the occurrence of particular interests. In inter-governmental Organizations, the course towards decisions, which involves all the countries, is always hard and often entails sacrificing the ego of Nationalism or the urgency of particular interests. One risks, however, denying the essence of diplomacy if multilateral contexts are not recognized as the only possibility for States to gather simultaneously to dialogue, elaborate strategies, assume decisions and find solutions to questions, such as peace, which are necessarily common. The danger of abandoning the vision of the common good, to allow countries to seek refuge in individual closures and in more or less masked localisms, which now color the scenario of a post-global world, is palpable. If in regard to globalization, what was important was not to be excluded, in the post-global reality in which we are immersed, the first thought is to protect oneself, to close oneself in regard to what surrounds one because it is considered a source of danger or of contamination by ideas, cultures, religious visions and economic processes. And so the unity of attempts and the desire to cooperate leave the place to isolated positions and to a growing fragmentation with not easily foreseeable risks precisely on the side of peace: “We are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism, even graver in face of the development of the new technologies of arms; this approach seems rather incoherent in the present context marked by inter-connection and constitutes a situation that requires urgent attention and also dedication on the part of all the leaders,”[17] stressed Pope Francis in Japan, in face of the effects of nuclear war.

It is a hard and uncertain path, above all an awkward situation in which international politics and its protagonists also seem resigned in face of the image of numerous conflicts in the act, of the indiscriminate circulation of arms, of recourse to terrorist violence or to impossible conditions of survival of peoples and countries. How can the necessity of cohesion, of fraternity and even the basic sense of humanity be ignored in relations between States and within States? It’s not unusual to see diplomats assist impotent to combats, violence, attacks experiencing how difficult it is to stop them, while the victims increase and the sufferings are multiplied of those that lose affections or are constrained to leave home, land, work often to begin a path without a goal.

It is in face of these scenarios that diplomacy must rediscover its role, as a force that acts preventively in regard to threats to peace and to security, seeking to support every effort, to pick up any sign even if minimal, which is able to elicit the culture of encounter and of dialogue, offering practical alternatives to arms, to violence, to terror. In contributing to delineate scenarios of peace, to the end of an operative diplomacy, the pontifical diplomat adds the awareness that “peace is no more than a ‘sound of words’ if it’s not founded on truth if it’s not built according to justice, if it’s not vivified and completed by charity and if it’s not carried out in freedom.”[18]

This is the furrow in which the Holy See is inserted when it renders itself

an active part in the work of averting conflicts or in accompanying processes of peace and of research of negotiated solutions to the same.[19]

A diplomacy, therefore, which is a vehicle of dialogue, of cooperation and of reconciliation, which then become all paths to peace, substituting the mutual claims, the fratricidal oppositions, the idea of enemy and the rejection of the other. Above all a diplomacy capable of concurring to build peace, replacing the use of force and, namely, that path considered briefest but certainly not decisive: “It’s never the use of violence that leads to peace. War calls for war, violence calls for violence!”[20]

I thank you again for your welcome and attention. I wish you all a serene Academic Year, rich in results and new goals.

[1] Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 62.

[2] John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae on Catholic Universities, 4.

[3] Francis, The Desire of Peace, Letter to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University, November 12, 2018.

[4] Francis, Message on Nuclear Arms, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, Nagasaki, November 24, 2019.

[5] Francis, Homily at Saint Martha’s, October 21, 2016.

[6] Cf. G. Balladore Pallieri – G. Vismara, Acta Pontificia Juris Getium usque ad annum MCCCIV, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1946.

[7] Cf. Vatican Council II. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 78.

[8] Francis, Address at the Meeting with Apostolic Nuncios, June 13, 2019.

[9] Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 9, 2017.

[10] John XXIII, Giornale dell’ Anima, n. 748.

[11] Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 7, 2019.

[12] Address to the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See, January 11, 2016.

[13] Francis, Address to the UN General Assembly, September 25, 2015.

[14] Saint John Paul II, General Audience of October 22, 1986,4.

[15] Saint Paul VI, Motu Proprio  Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, the Office of Representatives of the Roman Pontiff, IV, 2.

[16] Pope Francis’ conversation with journalists on the return flight from Antananarivo, September 11, 2019.

[17] Francis, Message on Nuclear Arms, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, Nagasaki, November 24, 2019.

[18] Francis, Message to the Meeting for Peace, Memorial of Peace, Hiroshima, November 24, 2019.

[19] Cf. Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 9, 2017.

[20] Francis, Angelus, September 1, 2013.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Staff Reporter

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation