Cardinal Parolin Takes on Media Public Relations

April 19, 2021

Divisions in the Church, reform of the Curia, relations with China… The number two man in the Vatican is once again stepping up to defend its political action in the service of the Roman Pontiff, at a time when British justice has just highlighted the role of the high prelate in a controversial real estate transaction.

By communicating well, the current Secretary of State of the Holy See seeks to occupy the media ground: two months after giving an interview to the French channel KTO, Cardinal Pietro Parolin received journalists from the Spanish radio Cope, at the beginning of April 2021.

An intervention that took place, and this is probably no coincidence, at a time when the office of the Secretary of State is being plunged into the turmoil of a dubious real estate transaction involving its most senior officials. It was time to raise the debate—to create a diversion, as some would say.

The cardinal begins by evoking what he sees as the “root of the divisions” which undermine the Church: namely the cleavage between conservatives and progressives, between those who do not “distinguish between the essential, which cannot change—the structure of the Church, the deposit of the faith, the sacraments, or the apostolic ministry—and that which is not essential and may be reformed according to the spirit of the gospel,” he declares.

On his guard, the porporato takes care not to specify the content of the distinction between what is essential and what is not, leaving room for all possible exegesis.

Then the Secretary of State of the Holy See once again addresses the question of relations between the Holy See and China, not without reason, because the provisional agreement signed in 2018 with Beijing, then renewed at the end of 2020, is the fruit of several years of intense diplomatic activity.

Suffice to say that Cardinal Parolin and his team are taking a dim view of the recurring criticisms leveled at them on this subject.

“All we do is guarantee normal life for the Church in China; the measures taken are going in the right direction, even if all the problems have not yet been solved,” explains the high prelate.

An assertion that is barely audible, as many voices are raised, in the Middle Kingdom as elsewhere in the Church, to denounce the dramatic deterioration of the situation of Chinese Catholics in recent months.

The question of the progress of reforms within the Curia is an opportunity for Msgr. Parolin to cut short the rumors which see a less important place given to the Secretary of State in the future: “the role of Secretary of State will remain unchanged; we will continue to perform our function within ecclesiastical diplomacy,” he underlines.

Nevertheless, our man remains silent on the recent transfer of all the funds managed by his services to another Roman body, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). A reform that some saw as a personal disavowal.

When he talks about his relationship with the Argentine pontiff, it is necessary to read between the lines to discover a relationship that seems complex: Pope Francis is “a man without protocol.” The cardinal perceives his “difference in temperament” with the Holy Father as an “advantage.” “It's about turning our differences into wealth,” and “let this not become a conflict but a collaboration.”

Clearly, the weather in Vatican City seems less lenient than the Roman sky, which is quite spring blue, it remains to be seen.