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FEATURE: ‘We Believe Strongly in Multilateralism’ – Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Gallagher Tells ZENIT Reflecting on Vatican’s New Document Five Years After ‘Laudato Si’

Presentation of “Journeying for Care of the Common home – Five Years After Laudato Si’”, Prepared by Holy See Interdicastery Table on Integral Ecology

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We believe strongly in multilaterism …. We must work together….

This is was what Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations With States, expressed to ZENIT during the first press conference, since lockdown, held with some accredited journalists in the Holy See Press Office, today, June 18, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.

The conference was held to present the document entitled “On the Way for the Care of the Common Home, Five Years from the Encyclical Laudato Si’,” a fruit of interdicasteral Vatican’s collaboration on integral ecology.

The Press Office transitioned from holding private streamed virtual conferences in this period to today’s in person one. They took each journalist’s temperature upon entry, gave sanitizer, and had set channels to enter and leave the hall. Vatican-accredited press needed to wear masks and sit in designated, socially distant seats.

Intervening along with Archbishop Gallagher were Monsignor Fernando Vergez Alzaga, L.C., Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Monsignor Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Institutes of Studies); Monsignor Bruno Marie Duffe, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development; Aloysius John, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis; and Tomas Insua, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

ZENIT asked the Vatican Foreign Minister about where the document speaks of “ethics in international relations” on page 144, and how it refers to challenges that cannot be solved at the level of individual states alone. Recognizing that in recent times, one often sees that international institutions such as the United Nations, for example, do not have the strength to impose binding rules and laws on individual sovereign states, they asked “how do you hope that the heads of the individual states will embrace this ethics that this document invokes?”

“We believe strongly in multilateralism,” the Vatican Foreign Minister responded, stressing: “We believe that multilateral organizations, which were established after the Second World War, are indispensable for the future, for the world and for our society.”

“But at the same time,” he said, “we don’t even believe that these organizations are perfect, so they must also welcome criticism and be open to reform.”

The issue, he pointed out, “is that without reform, without renewed commitment and mutual collaboration, it is not possible, as you said, to face problems that are not contained within the borders of a single country, by now.”

“We also see it with the pandemic, which does not respect borders, but spreads everywhere.”

For this reason, Archbishop Gallagher underscored, “we have to work together, and multilateral organizations are an indispensable tool in this struggle.”

The Vatican says that the 227-page document will be providing translations in other languages in the near future.

Here is a ZENIT translation of Archbishop Gallagher’s intervention at the press conference:

* * *

Intervention of Archbishop Robert Gallagher

Dear Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here with you for the presentation of the text “On the Way for the Care of the Common Home, Five Years from the <Encyclical> Laudato Si’,” elaborated by the Inter-Dicasterial Table of the Holy See on Integral Ecology, which began this work in 2018, when you received the approval of the Holy Father, to whom I had the privilege of delivering the first publication yesterday afternoon.

It might be interesting to review briefly the genesis of this text, whose main objective, it is well stressed, is not to duplicate Laudato Si’ through ethical value reflections, which are well developed in the Encyclical itself. The purposes of the text are, in fact, diverse and multiple.

  • To re-launch the richness of the contents of an Encyclical that, although it has just turned five years, is still very current, as highlighted even more by the global situation determined by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • To offer orientation on the reading of the Encyclical, promoting operational elements that spring from the reflections contained in it, and minimizing the risks of misunderstanding;
  • To foster collaboration between the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and Catholic Institutions committed to the diffusion and implementation of Laudato Si’, enhancing its numerous synergies.

The book you have before you is, in fact, the fruit of the collegial endeavour of numerous entities that work inside the Holy See and the Catholic Church, to which goes our gratitude. The Holy See’s Inter-Dicasterial Table on Integral Ecology has witnessed the collaboration of many realities, in addition to those represented in this Press Conference.  I can mention, for instance, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life; the Dicastery for Communication; the Pontifical Councils for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for Inter-Religious Dialogue, for Culture, for the Promotion of the New Evangelization; the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences, the Synod of Bishops, numerous Episcopal Conferences, often represented by their International Meetings, such as SECAM for Africa, FABC for Asia, FCBCO for Oceania, CELAM for Latin America, the CCEE and COMECE for Europe, the International Unions of Superiors General, some networks of Non-Governmental Organizations, such as CIDSE.

In addition to the participation of the said institutions, it was then decided to involve as well the Apostolic Nunciatures, which were asked for indications on the good practices and on operational models for the implementation of Laudato Si’, which were carried out in the countries pertaining to local realities connected with the Catholic Church.

This long list alone witnesses the intense work that led to the writing of a text that has seen the succession of numerous drafts and has become ever richer in contents, keeping, however, a simple, synthetic dimension oriented to action, and remaining anchored to the approach on which the Encyclical is focused: that of integral ecology.

In this connection, it was sought to offer the reader answers to a question that appears in the conclusion of the text: “and what must we do?”, conforming to the setting of Laudato Si’ in taking into consideration a vast gamut of situations that go from the everyday of the domestic economy to the implications for the International Community.

In regard to this last aspect and to further testimony of this commitment, I am happy to inform you of the forthcoming adherence of the Holy See to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on the substances that impoverish the ozone stratum, instrument geared to compare be it the problem of the so-called “ozone hole,” be it the phenomenon of climate change. An instrument that goes in the direction desired by the Holy Father, when he affirms in n. 112 of Laudato Si’, that “human freedom is capable of limiting technology, of orienting it, and of putting it at the service of another type of progress, healthier, more human, more social and more integral.”

Dear Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic solicits us ultimately to make the socio-economic, ecological and ethical crisis that we are living a propitious moment of stimulation to conversion and to concrete and urgent decisions, as made well evident in the text you have before you.

To do this, we have need of an operational proposal, which in the present case is represented by integral ecology. As indicated in the text, it requires an “integral vision of life to elaborate the best policies, pointers, research and investment processes, valuation criteria, avoiding misleading conceptions of development and of growth: (Page 9); a “farsighted vision , which must be concretized in places and areas in which education and culture are cultivated, awareness is created, and political, scientific and economic formation is given and, in general, procedures to responsible actions” (page 11).

This represents a demanding challenge, but also an occasion as timely as ever to “design and build together a future that sees us united in protecting the life that has been given to us and to cultivate the creation entrusted to us by God so that we make it fructify without excluding or rejecting any of our brothers and sisters” (page 16). It is a complex task and full of pitfalls dictated by the difficulty to make common interests prevail over particular ones, to recognize that “the whole is superior to the part” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 237). It is a task that calls for an “honest and coherent dialogue on the common good, capable of making the most of multilateralism and the cooperation between States and intended to avoid the dangers of political-economic instrumentalizations” (page 219). A multilateral cooperation that, it is good to repeat it, is necessary but not sufficient to give an appropriate, integral and inclusive answer to the great and stimulating challenge that our time has before it and that must be urgently addressed.

The hope is that this text can be an effective contribution to the formulation of this answer.

Thank you!

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]


And following Archbishop Gallagher’s intervention above, we below provide our readers with a working ZENIT translation of the Vatican’s Guide to Reading the Document, found in the text:

Guide to the Reading of the Document

The idea of the writing of this text, supported by the Holy Father, stems from the desire to foster the execution of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, which was received with great interest inside and outside the Church. Witness of this are the numerous reflections initiated in the most varied inter-disciplinary environments, geared to study their implications and the scientific, economic, political, social and ethical applications that demonstrate its great richness.

Laudato Si’ is inserted among Pontiffs “ Social Encyclicals and addresses decisive junctions of contemporaneity, in the continuity with the Social Doctrine of the Church. The latter intends to offer principles of reflection, criteria of judgment and guidelines of action through a moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that characterize our times: a guide to inspire, at the individual and collective level, such conducts and choices that will make possible to look at the future with trust and hope.[1]

In fact, the Social Doctrine of the Church calls for careful reflection on the articulated realities of human existence in the light of Revelation, of the Natural Law and of Christian theological anthropology, founded on the dignity of the person, intelligent being and gifted with free will, subject of rights and duties, called to self-government and to exercise responsibly the primacy of other creatures. This vision requires study in depth of the human being in his wholeness, in relation to himself, to others, to society, to the cosmos and to God, through a careful discernment of the signs of the times in a world in constant transformation. In this perspective, the Social Doctrine of the Church becomes a precious instrument of formation and action at the service of a better world. In the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and in particular of Laudato Si’, presented in the following pages are several operational proposals, with the objective to inspire the action of the Church’s institutions, of the faithful and of all persons of good will.

As underscored many times by the Holy Father, it cannot be limited solely to the economic and technological dimension: the ethical-social dimension also assumes a central importance, implied in the concept of integral ecology: “We cannot think that political programs or the force of law will be enough to avoid behaviours that affect the environment, because when it is the culture that is corrupted and objective truth or universally valid principles are not recognized, the laws will be understood only as arbitrary impositions and as obstacles to avoid” (LS, 123).

It is about prospecting the evolution of society according to two fundamental interconnected lines: the technical-economic and financial on one hand, and the ethical-social and educational on the other. It is necessary to be committed to strengthen both in equal measure, because the weakness of one cannot but affect negatively the validity of the other and of the entire social body.

Therefore, it was decided to subdivide these operational proposals in two parts: the first regarding spiritual conversion and education; the second concerning the execution of integral human development in the perspective of integral ecology. Identified for every part are twelve ambits each developed according to the same formulation: after a quotation of Laudato Si’ pertinent to the argument, an introduction and contextualization of the same is presented, to then point out references of the most relevant papal documents; mentioned subsequently are some good practices and, indicated finally, are some action paths.

At this point, it’s opportune to state three premises that are valid for all the arguments addressed in this document, in order to avoid repetitions and misunderstandings.

  1. In the line of the awareness that “everything is connected,”” which pervades the entire Encyclical, and against every risk of reductionism, these “operational  proposals” are intended in an integral and integrated way: to act only on some aspects neglecting others does not lead  to a lasting solution of problems.
  2. The operational proposals must be implemented, adapted and declined in the light of the principle of subsidiarity, on the basis of which “all societies of superior order should put themselves in an attitude of help (Subsidium”) — hence of support, promotion, development — in regard to minors.”[2] Therefore, from time to time will be evaluated what corresponds to the person, to the family, to the community or to the local authorities, to the economic actors, to intermediary bodies, to the State, to the regional authorities and, finally, to the Community of Nations. In the same way, many of them call the Church into question on her different articulations and levels (from local to universal).
  3. Moreover, these operational proposals all have their inescapable and important educational components that sees first of all parents involved, to whom other members of the family stand next to responsibly (including the young generations as active part of the educational process), the educational and associative system inspired in the most correct principles and the highest morality, the religious institutions, the world of culture and that of communication.

[1] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004, 7-10.

[2] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 185-188. This exigency is well stressed in Pius XI’s Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, of May 15, 1931: “ . . . as it is illicit to take away from individuals what they can do with the with their strengths and industry to entrust it to the community, so it is unjust to return to a greater and higher society what the minor and inferior communities can do. And this is at the same time a grave harm and a confusion of the right order of the society, because the natural object of any intervention of the society itself is that of helping in a supplementary manner the members of the social body, not  to destroy and absorb it” (n. 80).

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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