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Vatican diplomacy at Davos Forum

DAVOS (SE): Cardinal Pietro Parolin listed what he called the three priorities for Vatican diplomacy during a discussion panel at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland on January 18, saying that fighting poverty, building bridges and achieving peace in concrete situations sit at the top.

Although he admitted that the Vatican has only a tiny representation on the world stage, he said that he believes it is well placed to make a serious contribution, because of the presence of people on the ground in the form of missionaries and local Church personnel in pretty well every part of the world.

He explained that because they live close to people from every rung of society, they are well placed to collect a great variety of perspectives and in fact do offer helpful suggestions for solutions to some prickly problems.

He went on to explain that he believes that the bottom line of the top three priorities is to protect, defend and promote religious freedom, pointing out, “It is the first human right.”

Cardinal Parolin explained, “The centrality of the person is transcendence and the fact that the person is called to be the brother of other human beings is the idea of fraternity.”

He continued, “If we don’t have it clear that we are brothers and sisters, and that we are responsible for others, I think that… other objectives will prevail and will in the end damage and destroy the person and the community.”

In this context, he strongly defended the existence of the European Union, calling the current turmoil over its makeup a crisis.

“European unity has brought great benefit to the European continent, we should not forget that,” he said.

“And maybe one of our problems of today is that the young generation does not recognise this benefit,” he surmised.

He pointed to the 60 years of continuous peace that Europe has enjoyed since the devastation of the First and Second World Wars, saying that he believes great benefits have come from the free circulation of people and ideas throughout the continent.

But he stressed that religion has also played an important role in achieving the peace of the past decades, saying, “Religions cannot be left only on the private ground; it is not only the expression of the personal feelings of the person, but religions have something to say also in a public arena.”

He added, “Of course in dialogue with all the faiths, we are not asking or requesting any privilege for the Catholic Church… We know that now we live in a pluralistic society where there are so many expressions of religious belief and religious faith; but I think that it is important that the authorities… recognise the public role that religions could give to the public life.”

Although he was strong in insisting that the Vatican does not just proclaim principles on which value judgements can be made, he added that he believes that this is a great service to the world community, as currently in Europe and other places, there is a lot of heat among nations about what way to move in difficult situations.

Addressing the situation of refugees, he said he has noticed that counties are claiming protection of their own identity as a primary reason for closing the door on people fleeing from violence or poverty in other parts of the world, something which he finds to be a regressive attitude.

“But I think that two things can be said: First of all, this is not a new phenomenon. I think the history of humanity is the history of encounter between cultures, between religions, between different ways of living and thinking,” he said.


“Maybe what is new is the proportion of this phenomenon especially for Europe. We are living with fear and a sense of malaise with this experience. It is nothing new. We have to learn the lesson of history,” the Vatican diplomat concluded.

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