Cardinal Pietro Parolin, pictured on July 2, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).
The publication of the new Vatican constitution is not necessarily the end of curial reform and new offices could be added later, the Vatican Secretary of State has said.
In a recent exclusive interview with CNA, Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke about the reform of the Roman Curia and the role of the Secretariat of State after the release of Praedicate evangelium.
He also discussed the Holy See’s current lack of diplomatic personnel. (In Part 1 of the hourlong interview, he addressed the Vatican’s efforts to end the Ukraine war.)
In 2014, Parolin talked about the possibility of creating an office for pontifical mediations within the Vatican Secretariat of State. The office would have had the task of overseeing the Holy See’s conflict mediation efforts.
The Holy See has proposed to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine. It has also sought to mediate in Venezuela, supported the peace process in Colombia, and served as a mediator in discussions between Cuba and the United States to restore diplomatic ties.
But this mediation activity did not lead to the creation of a specific office, as requested by Parolin.
For the Vatican Secretary of State, however, “it is not certain that the reform of the Curia will put an end to the idea of an office for pontifical mediations. The Curia is a living organism. It goes on, obviously always following the indications given by the pope. But how many institutes and entities have always been added after each reform?”
The head of Vatican diplomacy underlined that the “fundamental problem” is resources.
“There is a need for human resources and economic resources,” he said. “Such an office involved a massive investment because mediation is not just about making gestures; it is a fierce commitment to study. And it takes time, availability, means.”
The office was not created, above all, “because of this difficulty in finding resources. After all, we are a small reality facing enormous problems, and we try to do so with the forces we have at our disposal,” the 67-year-old Italian cardinal said.
As a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisers, Parolin helped to shape the new Vatican constitution, which describes the Secretariat of State as the “Papal Secretariat.” The Secretariat of State is now divided into three sections. There is an undersecretary for relations with states dedicated only to the multilateral sector and the Secretariat has lost its financial autonomy.
What, then, is the future of the Secretariat of State?
“As far as I understand,” Parolin said, “Paul VI had solved the coordination problem in a top-down manner, establishing that everything passed through the Secretariat of State. Today, this is no longer the point of view.”
“Certainly, the Secretariat of State is seeing some of its powers diminished, but it will continue to carry out its task of direct aid to the pope in the exercise of the Petrine ministry. After all, the Secretariat of State depends directly on the pope.”
Among the various crises to be addressed, there is a lack of Vatican diplomatic staff. There are currently 14 vacant nunciatures worldwide, some of which are particularly important, such as Venezuela, the European Union, and Jordan.
“The crisis is more general,” Parolin said. “It is a crisis that concerns priestly and religious vocations, a pool from which the personnel for the diplomacy of the Holy See was also drawn. At this level, it can be seen that every year it is challenging to find new candidates for the Ecclesiastical Academy [the institution that trains priests to serve in the diplomatic corps].”
In any case, for Parolin, the diplomacy of the Holy See “has the meaning of the search for peace, beyond particular interests.”
“There are no economic interests,” he explained. “There are no military interests, and there are no political interests.”
He added that the Holy See tried “to be present based on the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, because the Holy See has been present in the international community practically from the beginning.”
“We try to be present in situations of suffering, and we try to help resolve this suffering linked to conflicts, oppositions, or clashes of any kind,” he said.
Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of CNA’s interview with Cardinal Parolin.