By Dimitris Giannakopoulos*
With his ideas and vision, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reveals and clarifies the Holy See’s geopolitics. Firstly, as experienced diplomat, he never forgets to be above all a Priest. Moreover, in his being a Witness to Faith, he never forgets to be an Apostolic Nuncio, an ambassador of the Vatican State, but especially of the Catholic Faith and of the Universal Church. It comes to mind the extraordinary work carried out by St. John XXIII as Nuncio in Turkey and later as a Pope’s diplomat in Paris.
Diplomacy as evangelization and relations between States and between them and the Vatican as relations enlightened by the Gospel’s eternal principles. Cardinal Parolin, faithfully follows the Holy Father – and this is a guarantee not only of justice, but also of holiness. The loyalty to the Pope is certainty that the Church, one and only one, is the Bride of Christ, not a mere international organization and a State. The geopolitical ideas of the Secretary of State are very clear: as a result of his experience in Nigeria, his attention is particularly focused on the evolutions and crises of the sub-Saharan world – hence on the new African mass Islamization.
Thanks to his diplomatic experience in Mexico, between 1989 and 1992, he has developed the particular legal and religious wisdom, which is needed to deal with political regimes having a lukewarm attitude vis-à-vis the Church and old resentment towards the Catholic religion. Just think of the tragedy of the Mexican Catholic rebels known as Cristeros, between 1926 and 1929, resulting both from the US Protestant pressure and the Masonic radicalism of the Mexican ruling class. The current anti-Catholic harshness of many countries, the real “fight against Christ” of large parts of contemporary culture and media find in Secretary of State Parolin an experienced and wise priest. Almost an exorcist. In fact, if we look to the cultural importance and spiritual depth of the foreign policy currently implemented by the various States, we realize that they are really reduced to the minimum.
The obsession for economy and trade, resulting from an exclusively export-oriented global economy, both in rich and in “developing” countries, is matched by the emptiness of soul and thought. Our era is characterized by a silly and superficial collation of cultural and spiritual artifacts, different from one another and put together randomly and in bulk, as if this were a guarantee of “pluralism”. Pope Francis, who comes from Argentina, will certainly remember a beautiful tango of another Italian immigrant, Santos Discepolo, entitled cambalache, a sort of “random collection of items in bulk.”
With a view to treating this disease of the spirit and the mind, resulting precisely from the abandonment of the word of Christ, Cardinal Parolin uses dialogue – the beautiful tradition of Vatican Council II and of St. John XXIII – and the slow transformation of attitudes and preconceived ideas. Just think of the missions of the Secretary of State in Venezuela, since 2009, as Apostolic Nuncio – in a phase in which Chavez radicalized his Bolivarian “socialism” and the anti-Catholic polemic – as well as the Cardinal’s activities in Vietnam and China in the early years of this century. In those negotiations the Secretary of State followed two typical Vatican behaviors: being always autonomous from blocks and alliances, which creates trust and respect in every geopolitical area and, in particular, the specificity of Catholicism.
Catholicism is not a religion which becomes State and politics, but a universal rule whereby we can establish “the things that are God’s” and “the things that are Caesar’s”. The separation that the Son of Man establishes between the two domains, the earthly one and the domain of what belongs to God, is not yet well understood in the West, let alone in areas where Catholicism is a minority religion. I am certain that Cardinal Parolin knows it very well. In a wise speech delivered at a conference organized by “LiMes” he demonstrated to what extent the Church is far from being just a “bastion of capitalism” or of the Western civilization.
The Social Doctrine of the Church, from the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum onwards, is completely autonomous from secular economic theories. In this regard, Cardinal Parolin’s passion for St. Pius X is a further guarantee of the Church’s religious and institutional autonomism. It comes to my mind the extraordinary work of the so-called “Camaldoli Code”, a text on which the Catholics who entered the political scene after 1945 rebuilt Italy and brought it to unprecedented economic, social and cultural levels. The Secretary of State knows very well, and often reiterates, that making the Church be autonomous from its origin in the European context, which is now a “mission land” like many others, is a two-edged sword. In fact the issue lies in adapting Christ and His Word to all peoples of the Earth, but without easy adjustments and simplifications. Possibly for some temporary political support. This will be the issue on which the opening between the People’s Republic of China and the Vatican will be played.
The Holy See knows very well that, without a regular bilateral relationship between China and the Vatican, the former will have greater difficulties in moving in the West and in overcoming – even for the Catholic and Christian part of the Chinese people – the “materialism” which could ruin its social and even economic fabric. President Xi Jinping has always spoken of a society based on the “Three Harmonies”, where Confucian – and in some ways – Taoist traditions are integrated into what we, Westerners, would call China’s “sustainable development”. Nevertheless, without the Catholic part of its population, respectful of Peter’s Primacy, the project of the current Chinese leadership becomes lopsided and scarcely credible. On the other hand, Cardinal Parolin may remind the Chinese leadership of Saint Paul’s many statements on the respect for the “external” law, which allows the balanced development of God’s Word among His people. If the Vatican succeeds in settling its dispute with China, as is very likely right now, the Holy See will be again one of the great global strategic centers, from where all the strings for ensuring peace in the world will be pulled. Peace, too, is a goal of the Secretary of State and of Pope Francis.
Especially today, when the globalization-Americanization of the last few years of the 20th century has given way to a new strategic fragmentation, peace becomes an essential and topical theme. Cardinal Parolin has often repeated that, considering all the crises which have broken out recently, he is seriously worried about the situation in Ukraine and Latin America. South America, the region with the highest percentage of Catholics among its population, is floundering in a severe economic crisis, resulting from the new relations between North and South America and the local effects of the two great financial crises of 2006 and 2008. The economic crisis is followed by – or paves the way for – a cultural and spiritual crisis which tends to take away the Latinos’ Catholic soul to replace it with a series of globalist and materialist myths. Just think of the drug traffickers’ economy in Mexico, as well as the expansion of the Satanist and necromantic rituals related to the drug traffickers’ world. As underlined by the Secretary of State, think also of the European spiritual poverty, now reduced to the role of polarizing the Islam problem between an obsessive refusal and a frightened and uncritical acceptance.
The Church, however, knows very well how to assess the Islamic phenomenon. It can speak with the Arab and Koranic world and it is attentive to the Shi’ites and Sunnis’ foreign policy. It knows how to manage the relations with both of them without being subjected to both Islams’ initiative, unlike what happens with the “secular” Europeans. Much of the Church knows that the radical anti-Islamism of many Western “intellectuals” or the atheism à la carte of many maîtres à penser speaks of Islam to achieve the West’s de-Christianization.
Recently Cardinal Parolin has also reminded us of the positions of the Blessed John Paul II on the war in Iraq and the great work of opening to Hebraism and the State of Israel that the Polish Pope began and completed successfully. The two actions are not separate: on the one hand, the Church supports the interreligious dialogue, even at the cost of too much simplification; on the other, it maintains a special relationship with the Jewish “elder brothers”, a relationship which is both political and doctrinal.
In the Western desert we are going through, even anti-Semitism is resurging, as a token of the fear of Islam or as primary and irrational hatred for all monotheistic religions – and hence for the first among them. I am sure that Cardinal Pietro Parolin will be the man of God who will solve these and other problems, while the emptiness of soul spreads in the West and, despite everything, the Christian Church is bound to be the only major religious power in the world.
About the author:
*Dimitris Giannakopoulos, Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy