By Davide Dionisi
“The diplomatic action of the Holy See is not content with observing events or evaluating their significance, nor can it remain only a sort of critical voice of conscience, often even outside the chorus”. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, made the remark on Friday, marking the 40th anniversary of the Agreement between the Holy See and Peru, signed in Lima on July 19, 1980.
The English Archbishop said, “The Holy See is called to act to facilitate coexistence among the various nations, to promote that fraternity among peoples, where the term fraternity is synonymous with effective collaboration, effective cooperation, concordant and orderly, in a structured solidarity for the benefit of the common good and that of individuals”.
Diplomacy of peace based on justice
Archbishop Gallagher pointed out that it is Pope Francis who asks the Holy See to move on the international scene, not just to guarantee generic security, which is made more difficult than ever in this period of persistent instability and marked conflict. The Pope urges the Holy See also to support an idea of peace which is the fruit of fair relations, that is, of respect for international standards and the protection of fundamental human rights, starting with those of the least and the most vulnerable.
From this it is clear, the Vatican official said, that the “ecclesial” function of diplomacy is “an instrument of communion that unites the Roman Pontiff to the Bishops and to the respective local Churches”. It is also the special way through which the Pope can concretely reach the spiritual and material “peripheries” of humanity.
The Secretary for Relations with States noted that the diplomatic network of the Holy See has bilateral relations with 183 States, to which the European Union and the Sovereign Order of Malta must be added. The Holy See also maintains stable multilateral relations with many other intergovernmental institutions in various sectors connected with structures of international governance.
Conflict prevention and post-war healing
Archbishop Gallagher says peace, according to the Holy See, does not stop simply at the common assertion of international law. Working for peace does not only mean establishing an international security system and respecting its obligations. It also means preventing the causes that can trigger a war, as well as removing the cultural, social, ethnic and religious situations that can reopen bloody wars that have ended recently. In this sense, he said, international law “must continue to equip itself with legal institutions and regulatory instruments capable of managing conflicts that have concluded or situations in which diplomatic efforts have silenced arms”.
Archbishop Gallagher also drew attention to efforts in the post-war phase. The post-conflict task, he said, is not limited to reorganizing territories, recognizing new or changed sovereignties, or even guaranteeing new balances with the force of arms. Rather, he said, it must specify the human dimension of peace, eliminating any possible reason that could once again compromise the condition of those who have experienced the horrors of war and now await and hope, according to justice, for a different future. “Translated into the language of diplomacy”, he said, “this means giving priority to the rule of law over the force of arms, guaranteeing justice even before legality”.
Breaking the mechanisms of indifference
The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States also denounced the “spread of indifference” which, he said, is not just limited to places of conflicts and wars, perhaps in faraway lands. “Today it also calls into question all of us, who, willingly or unwillingly, are reached in our daily lives by a continuous wave of news and information, which virtually connect us with the rest of the world and show us multitudes of suffering people without a roof, of many victims of wars forced to emigrate, of people who are discouraged, of those who have lost their jobs, and of the most vulnerable people”.
The archbishop said he was convinced that today, more than ever, it is necessary “to break these mechanisms of indifference, to break the protective shell of our selfishness, thus passing from theorems on possible peace, to concrete experiences of lived peace, even if suffered”.
In this situation, the archbishop said, the path to be adopted is the one indicated by Pope Francis, namely, to fight against both material and spiritual poverty and be peacebuilders by building bridges through dialogue. The Holy See official said they are also the three points of reference that indicate a personal, social and global journey to which the Pope, from the first days of his election, has invited everyone.
Pope Francis “asks a lot of courage from us to leave behind the easy certainties we have acquired and commit ourselves to an authentic conversion of heart, of priorities and of lifestyles. He urges us to open ourselves to an encounter with the other, even when we may not seem to know the other enough, who come from very different cultural and religious backgrounds or speak very different languages”. Archbishop Gallagher concluded, saying the diplomacy of the Holy See is on the move. “It is a long, complex and difficult path, but with God’s help it is possible,” he said.