Cardinal Pietro Parolin in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2017. / Shutterstock.
Vatican City, Apr 12, 2022 / 04:45 am (CNA).
Religions make a fundamental contribution to promoting peace. So much so, that if an ecumenical version of the interreligious Document on Human Fraternity were to be produced, one of its themes would be peace.
That is what Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in the fourth part of a recent exclusive interview with CNA. The Vatican Secretary of State also spoke about the role of religions in promoting reconciliation and the possibilities of ecumenical diplomacy. (In Part 1 of the hourlong interview, he addressed the Vatican’s efforts to end the Ukraine war, in Part 2, the reform of the Roman Curia, and in Part 3, relations with China.)
The Italian cardinal discussed the Church’s work both in negotiating peace agreements and in preparing for peace deals with grassroots cultural work.
“First of all,” he said, “it is crucial that peace agreements are concluded based on justice. We know that the peace agreements imposed are the origin of new ideas, new wars, and new conflicts. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that the legitimate interests of all the parties involved are taken into consideration, without anyone feeling overwhelmed by the other.”
He went on: “As far as cultural work is concerned, I believe that the Church must continue through what have always been its means, such as preaching and formation, to insist on the concepts that are dear to us and to include a crucial theme, which is that of forgiveness.”
The concept of forgiveness also applies to Europe, now devastated by war.
“The theme of forgiveness is fundamental to be able to heal wounds,” Parolin commented. “Forgiveness is indeed a slow path. We must be very respectful of this path, not expect it to be completed overnight.”
“It is a path, however, that the Church proposes and helps to take through prayer, the sacraments and all the supernatural means that have been entrusted to her by the Lord.”
On this point, the cardinal highlighted “the great contribution of the social doctrine of the Church,” which should be “spread even more, at various levels, to the point of fully penetrating society.”
“And this is certainly a contribution that the Church makes to peace and the healing of wounds,” he commented.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published in 2004, was immediately translated into Russian and promoted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This is a sign of the bridges of dialogue that exist with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Many of Pope Francis’ recent trips to Europe were to countries with an Orthodox majority: Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Greece, and Cyprus.
But can ecumenical dialogue help diplomacy?
“I believe so,” Parolin said, “because religion is a fundamental part of the lives of a people and society. It is fundamental to the promotion of peace that members of different Christian denominations, or different religious groups, have good relations.”
He added: “Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are very convenient and effective tools. I would say that work on the great questions of the world is the terrain on which to work, since, from the theological point of view, some difficulties seem insurmountable, which have also cooled the ecumenical movement.”
For the cardinal, “the theme of peace and reconciliation is worth a closer and more effective collaboration. I see it as a great resource, and this despite sometimes other types of consideration, such as those of an ethnic nature, can put this type of relationship in crisis.”
In 2019, along with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Pope Francis signed the Document on Human Fraternity, to which the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani then adhered, at least in principle. It is therefore a document to which both Sunnis and Shiites have offered support. Yet there is no such document in ecumenical dialogue.
“To do this,” Parolin said, “it would be necessary to involve all the Christian churches. But if there is no comprehensive document, there are many ecumenical contributions. There are many documents, and it is essential to turn them into reality.”
“I see a lot of cooperation, and therefore there are all the elements to work together for the common goal of fraternity, and there is no need to arrive at a document.”
Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of CNA’s interview with Cardinal Parolin.