Cardinal Parolin and the Geopolitics of Successful Globalization

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Parolina at the UN - Sept. 2016

“To fight poverty, both material as well as spiritual; to make peace and to build bridges,” the Vatican diplomacy statesaccording to Cardinal Parolin.

On August 28, 2017, English-speaking readers of were able to read an article recapping a May 10 speech by Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, for the publication of the 4000th issue of the Italian Review La Civilta Cattolica. This speech presents the current geopolitical vision of the Holy See.

The Church’s Special Position 

The only religious confession with the status of “subject of international rights” thanks to Vatican City State, the Catholic Church incontestably enjoys a special position in the concert of nations. The cardinal spoke on the theme: “Magellan’s Look: The Diplomacy of Bridges in a World of Walls”

According to the head of Vatican diplomacy, the Church should regard international relations with “Magellan’s look.” Magellan was a great 16th-century sailor, the first man to circumnavigate the world. This look, according to Parolin, consists in opening “new ways of communication and of encounters, notably by building ideal bridges between one Continent and another, between different cultures and religions, between legal systems and thought often far from one another.” 

This look has become necessary because of the present “change of epoch,” continued Cardinal Parolin. This change was described almost 25 years ago by Henry Kissinger, in the introduction to his book Diplomacy published in 1994 and considered as a reference by the Roman prelate. The American diplomat wrote:

The international system of the twenty-first century will be marked by a seeming contradiction: on the one hand, fragmentation; on the other, growing globalization. On the level of the relations among the states, the new order will be more like the European state system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than the rigid patterns of the Cold War.

A Courageous Approach to the Unknown 

“Magellan’s look,” as Cardinal Parolin understands it, is based on “a courageous approach to the unknown”, born of “a threefold dynamism of spirit: a restless sense, the humility of incompleteness and the courage of the imagination.” 

The cardinal presents these three factors as “three precious coordinates, to also understand today Pope Francis’ attitude and papal diplomacy in face of the urgent challenges of our time.”

After establishing these “principles,” Cardinal Parolin offers an interpretation of Francis’s papal journeys, presenting them as successful acts of well thought out diplomacy, and expressions of his global geopolitical vision. Let us therefore follow the Secretary of State in the footsteps of Francis, on the path of restlessness, incompleteness, and imagination.

Ecumenism as Geopolitics 

The first characteristic of these geopolitics is that they trace “a path towards communion in the Church” on the “ecclesial and ecumenical level.” And he quotes the 2014 journeys to Jerusalem and Istanbul, where the Pope met with Patriarch Bartholomew. Then the historic embrace in Cuba in 2016 with Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, followed by ecumenical visits to Armenia and Georgia. The same year also saw “the historic encounter in Lund, Sweden, for the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation (end of October 2016), and the meeting in Cairo with Tawadros II and the Coptic Orthodox Church on April 29, 2017.”

These ecumenical itineraries coincide with the path of interreligious dialogue. It is

a path that goes from the East to the West, like the Gospel when it was first announced, a path that traverses historical, cultural and religious sensibilities that are very different from each other but whose common denominator is the Gospel

(or, rather, the Faith mixed in with all the other beliefs and reduced to being just one of many different convictions).

The second characteristic is that they are a “voyage from the peripheries to the center.” This voyage sums up and explains the three principal challenges adopted by Roman diplomacy today: “engagement for peace, nuclear disarmament, protection of the environment.” Cardinal Parolin explains that these three challenges are connected with other global perspectives:

the promotion of a civilization of encounter, the accompaniment of the migratory phenomenon, the sharing of the goods of the earth and the dignity of work, particularly for the young generations.

The Secretary of State for the Holy See insists that these major goals are particularly in synch with Pope Francis’ outlook. For him,

...reality is always superior to ideas. We meet each other in reality, in concrete life, before we confront our different ideas and ways of thinking. In other words, only by embracing others as they present themselves and where they are can I undertake with them a fraternal voyage towards truth and reconciliation.

This existentialist approach should be spread to the entire Church, “that is called to be perpetually ‘going out,’ that is to say, reaching out towards the places where she can meet with the men of our times.”

Pope Pius XII


Ever since the end of World War II and even more so since Vatican Council II, two major types of goals are pursued by the Holy See as a spiritual and moral religious power. The first type includes the defense and promotion of the Church’s own interests and values, or the defense of Catholicism in the world. The other type is the promotion and application of universal values, such as the primacy of the human person and the defense of this primacy by spreading human rights everywhere in the world.

The primacy of the human person has thus become the founding principle of the Holy See’s geopolitical vision, while the primacy of the Faith has moved to the background and been dimmed, if not sacrificed, in the name of so-called realism. Cardinal Parolin claims that “reality is always superior to ideas.” He does not mean the reality of spiritual things from on high; he means the reality of the world as it is. It is the world, and not the principles of the Faith, that expresses what the men of our times are and their needs that call for answers. This is the modern approach, the “cult of man” mentioned by Pope Paul VI in his speech for the closing of Vatican Council II on December 7, 1965.

By concentrating too much on reading the signs of the times, one risks being guided by principles other than those of the Gospel. A recent article in L’Osservatore Romano sang the praises of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, General of the Company of Jesus from 1965 to 1981. The author wrote:

Fr. Arrupe was chosen as someone capable of adapting the traditional way of life to the multipolar order of the new times – the order that, according to Roosevelt’s speech on the four freedoms (1941), men should be able to enjoy everywhere in the world.(

(Jacques Servais, “La foi exige la justice – Pedro Arrupe et Henri de Lubac “ [Faith Requires Justice – Pedro Arrupe and Henri de Lubac], in ORLF, July 27, 2017, p. 10).

Roosevelt yesterday, Kissinger today. The diplomacy of the Vatican has found its prophets.

But if Cardinal Parolin uses the analysis of the American Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, it is because it seems appropriate to him in these days of so many threats for peace: We are living through “a season tragically marked by the blind violence of fundamentalist terrorism,” that empoisons brotherhood, even on the idolatrous pretext of the name of God. At the same time, we witness “the growth in power of a new affirmation of nationalisms and populisms” that risk undermining the foundations of peaceful and organized cohabitation among people. These are the great enemies. Not indifferentism or the apostasy of societies. Not the overturning of the moral order, the spread of abortion and euthanasia, the attacks on marriage and the family. Not secularism or militant atheism. All that counts is the threat to the planet coming from “fundamentalist terrorism” on one hand and nationalisms and populisms on the other.

In sum, Cardinal Parolin is defending a sort of successful globalization. That is what needs to be saved. Far from fulfilling its specific and proper mission, Vatican diplomacy seems to be reduced to serving the existing world order, and fighting for “peace, nuclear disarmament, protection of the environment, the promotion of a civilization of encounter, the accompaniment of the migratory phenomenon, the sharing of the goods of the earth and the dignity of work.” This will do nothing to bring societies to recognize their Creator and Lord.

Speaking to the Diplomatic Corps on March 4, 1956, Pope Pius XII voiced far different desires:

May [peoples] always remember that they are being guided in a direction that does not and cannot lead by itself to true peace!...That is why We are appealing to all who want peace and unity for mankind. With the help of God, such generous souls are becoming more numerous every day. They victoriously oppose their ideal of light and love to error and evil. Convinced that nothing solid can be built on sand, they rely on eternal truths that cannot be shaken by even the most categoric denials. For what human reason has long groped for, God in His goodness has shown to men in the person of His beloved Son. ‘For He Himself is our peace’ (Eph. 2:14).

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 126:1).