Cardinal Parolin says religion is fundamental to promoting peace

Andrea Gagliarducci   By Andrea Gagliarducci for CNA


Cardinal Pietro Parolin in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2017. / Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2022 / 04:45 am (CNA).

Religions make a fundamental contribution to promoting peace. So much so, that if an ecumenical version of the interreligious Document on Human Fraternity were to be produced, one of its themes would be peace.

That is what Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in the fourth part of a recent exclusive interview with CNA. The Vatican Secretary of State also spoke about the role of religions in promoting reconciliation and the possibilities of ecumenical diplomacy. (In Part 1 of the hourlong interview, he addressed the Vatican’s efforts to end the Ukraine war, in Part 2, the reform of the Roman Curia, and in Part 3, relations with China.)

The Italian cardinal discussed the Church’s work both in negotiating peace agreements and in preparing for peace deals with grassroots cultural work.

“First of all,” he said, “it is crucial that peace agreements are concluded based on justice. We know that the peace agreements imposed are the origin of new ideas, new wars, and new conflicts. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that the legitimate interests of all the parties involved are taken into consideration, without anyone feeling overwhelmed by the other.”

He went on: “As far as cultural work is concerned, I believe that the Church must continue through what have always been its means, such as preaching and formation, to insist on the concepts that are dear to us and to include a crucial theme, which is that of forgiveness.”

The concept of forgiveness also applies to Europe, now devastated by war.

“The theme of forgiveness is fundamental to be able to heal wounds,” Parolin commented. “Forgiveness is indeed a slow path. We must be very respectful of this path, not expect it to be completed overnight.”

“It is a path, however, that the Church proposes and helps to take through prayer, the sacraments and all the supernatural means that have been entrusted to her by the Lord.”

On this point, the cardinal highlighted “the great contribution of the social doctrine of the Church,” which should be “spread even more, at various levels, to the point of fully penetrating society.”

“And this is certainly a contribution that the Church makes to peace and the healing of wounds,” he said.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published in 2004, was immediately translated into Russian and promoted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This is a sign of the bridges of dialogue that exist with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Many of Pope Francis’ recent trips to Europe were to countries with an Orthodox majority: Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Greece, and Cyprus.

But can ecumenical dialogue help diplomacy?

“I believe so,” Parolin said, “because religion is a fundamental part of the lives of a people and society. It is fundamental to the promotion of peace that members of different Christian denominations, or different religious groups, have good relations.”

He added: “Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are very convenient and effective tools. I would say that work on the great questions of the world is the terrain on which to work, since, from the theological point of view, some difficulties seem insurmountable, which have also cooled the ecumenical movement.”

For the cardinal, “the theme of peace and reconciliation is worth a closer and more effective collaboration. I see it as a great resource, and this despite sometimes other types of consideration, such as those of an ethnic nature, can put this type of relationship in crisis.”

In 2019, along with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Pope Francis signed the Document on Human Fraternity, to which the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani then adhered, at least in principle. It is therefore a document to which both Sunnis and Shiites have offered support. Yet there is no such document in ecumenical dialogue.

“To do this,” Parolin said, “it would be necessary to involve all the Christian churches. But if there is no comprehensive document, there are many ecumenical contributions. There are many documents, and it is essential to turn them into reality.”

“I see a lot of cooperation, and therefore there are all the elements to work together for the common goal of fraternity, and there is no need to arrive at a document.”

Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of CNA’s interview with Cardinal Parolin.

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  1. Religion, is mans attempt to reach out to God, it has been said! Christianity is the vehicle in which God reaches out out man.

    Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. We must proclaim Christ crucified to the world. Ecumenism is not the way forward. Schisms divide and are not reconcilable. Jesus Christ and our fidelity to Him is what matters.

    Ecumenism is time wasting and does address the needs of mans soul. On the surface it appears right minded, yet it falls short of the words of Jesus. Let us focus on uniting mens souls to Christ, rather than the impossible task of a man made headquarters.

    God is supernatural and we look to Him as the author and finisher of our faith and mission.

    • “Ecumenism is time wasting and does [sic?] address the needs of mans soul. On the surface it appears right minded, yet it falls short of the words of Jesus.”

      Depends, I suppose, on what you mean by ecumenism. For Catholics, true ecumenism focuses on unity in the Church founded by Christ, working toward “the restoration of unity among all Christians” (UR, 1).

      Jesus himself seems more than a bit keen on true unity:

      “And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. … The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” (Jn 17:10, 22-23)

      As for religion (just as with ecumenism), there is true and good religion, and false and bad religion. Which is why, for example, Paul wrote, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16), and James stated, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jam 1:27).

      • Dear Mr Olson:

        Thank you for your response and your work at CRW. Many appreciate the opportunity to express their views and strengthen their faith.

        The scripture you quoted is instructional and a spiritual blessing. Gratitude!

        “For Catholics, true ecumenism focuses on unity in the Church founded by Christ, working toward “the restoration of unity among all Christians” (UR, 1).” This is a noble sentiment, yet it may not be the whole of the matter.

        In Revelation Two and Three, Jesus speaks to the seven churches. He offers commendation for most and rebukes most. The letters written tell us He loves those churches. They were different, yet the fundamental cord was that they were believers.

        Jesus puts us in the church where we will be mot blessed and to be a blessing to others. The Church of Rome has been a blessing to millions as it continues to be. Today, there are denominations that are faithful to the word of God, however we all need to be rebuked by the Lord unto repentance.

        Paul writes to the churches of Rome, Corinth, etc. He pleads for concordance and unity within diversity.
        We need to celebrate our unity in Christ and recognize different views that may bring enlightenment and a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.

        God bless you and your staff at CRW,


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