Pope Francis on January 7, 2019, gave a long and wide-ranging speech to the representatives of the states that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. He stressed the importance of multilateralism, mentioned some of the diplomatic successes of 2018 – and pointed out the many challenges that remain.
“Politics must be farsighted and not limited to seeking short-term solutions. A good politician should not occupy spaces but initiate processes; he or she is called to make unity prevail over conflict,” the Holy Father said.
“Fidelity to the spiritual mission based on the command that the Lord Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter, ‘Feed my lambs’ (Jn 21:15), impels the Pope – and consequently the Holy See – to show concern for the whole human family and its needs, including those of the material and social order. Nonetheless, the Holy See has no intention of interfering in the life of States; it seeks instead to be an attentive listener, sensitive to issues involving humanity, out of a sincere and humble desire to be at the service of every man and woman.”
On the positive side, during 2018, on June 26, an Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino was signed for the teaching of the Catholic religion in public schools, ratified the following October 1.
On August 23, 2018, the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Benin on the legal status of the Catholic Church in Benin was ratified.
On September 22, 2018, a Provisional Agreement was signed by the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of bishops in China.
In addition, on July 16, the Holy See deposited the instruments of ratification of the UNESCO Regional Convention on the recognition of higher teaching qualifications in Asia and the Pacific, and on March 21, 2018, it signed the enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. On 30 November 2018, Vatican City State was admitted to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).
However, he also pointed out the many areas of concern that continue to defy solution and he stressed the need for a multilateral approach to achieving peace and justice, including Ukraine, Syria (and, in fact, the entire Middle East), Colombia, Venezuela, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.
He also mentioned the issues that cross many borders: migration, the arms trade, rights and safety of workers, and climate change. He stressed that all of these issues require a multilateral approach and cited the League of Nations as the start of that approach.
“The year just begun contains a number of significant anniversaries, in addition to that of the Council of Europe… Among these, I would like to bring up one in particular: the hundredth anniversary of the League of Nations, established by the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919,” the Holy Father recalled. ” Why do I mention an organization that today no longer exists? Because it represents the beginning of modern multilateral diplomacy, whereby states attempt to distance their reciprocal relations from the mentality of domination that leads to war.
“The experiment of the League of Nations quickly met with those well-known difficulties that exactly twenty years after its birth led to a new and more devastating conflict, the Second World War. Nevertheless, that experiment paved the way for the establishment in 1945 of the United Nations Organization. Certainly, that way remains full of difficulties and obstacles, nor is it always effective, since conflicts persist even today, yet it cannot be denied that it provides an opportunity for nations to meet and seek common solutions.”
The Pope emphasized two important “points of contact” in which he said the Vatican has ongoing and deep interest. First, is the insistence on the primacy of justice and law. He cited the October, 1965, address of Saint Paul VI to the United Nations General Assembly: “You sanction the great principle that relationships between nations must be regulated by reason, justice, law, by negotiation, not by force, nor by violence, force, war, nor indeed by fear and deceit.”
The second point is the defense of those who are vulnerable. Francis again quoted Paul VI: “We want to speak… for the poor, the disinherited, the unfortunate, and those who long for justice, a dignified life, liberty, prosperity, and progress.”
There are 183 states currently engaged in diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta are to be added to the aforementioned states.
There are 89 Embassy Chancelleries based in Rome, including those of the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The offices of the League of Arab States, the International Organization for Migrations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are also based in Rome.