PopeWatch: Diplomacy


An interesting look at the diplomatic style of Pope Francis by Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa:


Francis has placed back at the head of the secretariat of state a thoroughbred diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. But with him as pope, the face of Vatican geopolitics has changed.

The war of the worlds fought and won by a giant like John Paul II is now a distant memory. In an age of personalized conflicts, of despots, of armed factions, of fractured and failed states, even diplomacy is becoming personalized, becoming “artisanal,” as Pope Francis himself likes to put it. His Argentina is not Poland, where the dictatorship was opposed by a Church of the people, solid and faithful. Under the heel of the military rulers the Argentine Church was confused and divided. The young Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio acted according to his own judgment, in secret and sovereign solitude.

Today he does everything in public. But still with highly personal gestures that seem alien to the old-school diplomats. Like inviting under the dome of St. Peter’s, to pray, the presidents of Israel and Palestine.

“Here in the Vatican 99 percent said that we would never succeed,” Pope Francis himself candidly revealed afterward. But what asserted itself in the end was precisely that stubborn one percent which he personifies.

Even in the complicated preparations for the summit the pope did everything himself. He left the career diplomats with only the crumbs. He preferred the help of a Franciscan friar, custodian of the Holy Land Terra Santa Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and of an Israeli journalist who works as a correspondent for “La Vanguardia” of Barcelona, Henrique Cymerman.

Where diplomacy fails, Pope Francis takes the field his own way.

With silence, as in the unscheduled stop in front of the wall of separation in Bethlehem.

With prayer and fasting, as for Syria last September 7, when he recited the rosary in St. Peter’s Square on his knees in front of an icon of the Blessed Mother.


Go here to read the rest.  Most Popes act as their own chief diplomat in the modern world.  In our age of instant communications it would be impossible for it to be otherwise.  Saint John Paul II was a grandmaster at his diplomatic initiatives being echoed by countries that viewed him as a powerful force in the world.  The support of the US for the freedom of Solidarity in Poland, championed by John Paul II was a prime example.  However, John Paul II had his greatest success when he was matched with great leaders like Reagan and Thatcher who shared the Pope’s desire to end Communism in Europe.  Pope Francis reigns in a time when the West is filled with little men and women at the helm, weak and confused.  A Pope can only do so much, and whatever a Pope’s style in diplomacy the success or failure of his foreign policy efforts is often dependent upon leaders in the West who are willing to follow where a Pope is leading.    If that willingness is not there, all of the papal diplomacy in the world will not make up for that lack,

More to explorer


  1. Talleyrand once remarked that the task of an ambassador, like that of the cavalry, is to cover and discover.

    Every pope needs a efficient diplomatic corps.

  2. “the Argentine church was confused and divided”
    There has been confusion and division in the Church since the early times. The Council of Jerusalem was called for this reason. The first ecumenical council at Nicea was called by Constantine (probably with Pope Sylvester) because of religious and civl confusion and division.
    Questions today are not just about the role of the Church in the world polity, but, more basic: confusion and division concerning the Church’s identity…and what does She teach. (in a language appropriate for today of course!)

    Diplomacy seeks unity of disparate interests through understanding… well and good – but Catholic diplomacy should not stray from conviction of absolute truth.
    The hierarchy is a public face of the Church in the world. May God bless us with unity and strength in understanding that we do have a message, we know what it is, ad we know we are called to proclaim it.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: