Cardinal Parolin Pleads His Own Defense

February 08, 2021
Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Strongly criticized for his policy of openness towards the Chinese communist regime, and destabilized by the financial scandals involving some of his former collaborators, the Secretary of State of the Holy See took advantage of a visit to France to grant an interview to the Catholic media KTO.

It was in the paneled salons of the apostolic nunciature of Paris that the “number two” man of the Holy See wanted to answer questions from Philippine de Saint Pierre, general manager of the KTO channel, on January 29, 2021.

Reform of the Curia, scandals at the Vatican, agreement with China, the prospect of a visit by the Pope to France: these are the main themes discussed in a very political interview.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin thus returned to the question of the reform of the Curia, about which we whisper oltretevere, that it is about a real sea serpent: “considerable progress has been made,” the secretary of state responds curtly and argues that, if the “Holy Father has not yet decided on a precise date, I think the Apostolic Constitution will be published before the end of this year.”

As for the financial scandals that have plagued several of his former direct collaborators, including his former substitute, Cardinal Angelo Maria Becciu, the Vatican number two, puts it into perspective: “If we look at history, there have always been difficult times.”

And the senior prelate added that the fact of Pope Francis facing these “problems” directly is a sign of his desire to make the Curia “as efficient as possible, with the aim of evangelizing the world and proclaiming the Gospel to the peoples of today.”

The secretary of state’s comments were eagerly awaited on the question of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and Beijing, signed in 2018 and renewed in the fall of 2020, an agreement whose terms remain secret to this day, and which several great voices in the Church, like Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, denounce as an open surrender.

“Firstly, I would say that I deeply respect anyone who has a different opinion and who criticizes, say, the policy of the Holy See with regard to China,” cautiously advances the high prelate, who goes on to defend tooth and nail the agreement which is his work, in the name of the “way of small steps.”

“It is just a small step from which one can begin to seek to improve the situation of the Church. So there is no claim that this is the ‘last word.’ I compare this agreement to the little seed that penetrates the ground,” explains Msgr. Parolin.

French domestic policy was also discussed by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, who expressed reservations about the bill on separatism, currently being debated in France, a project which aims at very tight state control over religions.

“From what I understand,” Cardinal Parolin declares with his Venetian prudence, “this law might also create some risk of putting into discussion the balances that have been created throughout this century, since 1905… I do not know if there would be other ways [to fight against radical Islam] for example by measures of public order, … but without creating consequences or effects which could be, let’s say, at least problematic,” he adds.

Finally, when asked about the possibility of the sovereign pontiff making a visit to France, the high prelate remained elusive: “It is a question of finding an opportunity, but I think that there is an openness and a desire on the part of the Pope to go visit France. However, do not ask me for a date!”

Obviously, Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s January 29, 2021 interview shows his desire to regain control and assert himself as the powerful man in the confidence of the Pope—his “prime minister,” as he himself said at the start of the show—chosen to implement the policy of the Holy See in the Church and in the world.

And this at a time when sharp criticisms are being made against him: relayed last January 11 information from the daily Domani, according to which the cardinal secretary of state reportedly said that the suspicious acquisition of the building in London was a “worthwhile investment.”

The high prelate reportedly even asked the Vatican’s private bank for a loan of 150 million euros to carry out an operation which is currently the subject of meticulous investigation by the Holy See’s financial services.