Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State at the Vatican, said in a recent interview that under Pope Francis’ reform, his department will undertake the Pope’s call for pastoral conversion.
“The Secretariat of State … must assume a cordial and complete availability to the pastoral conversion proposed by Pope Francis,” Archbishop Parolin told Stefania Falasca of Avvenire, the daily of the Italian bishops’ conference, in an interview published Feb. 8.
“Indeed, it must become, in a certain sense, a model for the whole Church,” he added.
The Vatican’s state department, he said, should “shine in a particularly intense way, in the persons who compose it and the activities it performs” with the three qualities Pope Francis identified in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia: “professionalism, service, and holiness of life.”
Archbishop Parolin affirmed the “both-and” nature of the Church, rejecting the idea that diplomay and the proclamation of faith, or that dialogue and defence of principles, are opposed to one another, “even if such a synthesis, on a personal level, can sometimes be difficult, even lacerating.”
Diplomacy, he said, is an “instrument at the service of the Church’s mission,” in relation to religious freedom and world peace. In a pluralistic world Vatican diplomacy must “accompany men and peoples to help them realize that their differences are an asset and a resource,” helping them to “construct a human and fraternal world, in which there is room for everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.”
Regarding curial reform, Archbishop Parolin said it “must make of the Curia a simple and quick tool, less bureaucratic and more efficient,” calling this “a profound change with respect to the past.”
The Roman Curia, he said, should serve both the Pope and the bishops; being neither a “command center” nor a “body of control,” but characterized, rather, by service.
“There is always the peril of abuse of the power, great or small, we have in our hands, and this peril has not escaped, and cannot escape, the Curia. But, ‘it shall not be so among you,’ the Gospel admonishes, and on this Word … we try to model our activity in the Roman Curia.”
Curial reform must include the reform of structures, he affirmed, while adding that this would be useless “if not accompanied by a permanent personal conversion.”
Archbishop Parolin also said that the Roman Curia had and has saints, and that it should not be seen in exclusively negative terms.
Commenting on the pontifical commissions advising on the Institute for Religious Works and Vatican administrations, the archbishop noted that they have “a limited mandate” and will submit proposals to Pope Francis.
Reform of the Vatican bank must “underline the aspects of transparency and adherence to international standards,” he added, emphasizing that “much has been done” already.
He expressed hope that the Vatileaks scandal has “definitively passed,” noting that it has caused Benedict XVI and others “unjust suffering” and adding that “many, many were scandalized, and it damaged not a little the cause of Christ.”
He also addressed Pope Francis’ words concerning unbridled capitalism, saying that in reading “Evangelii gaudium” “I caught myself thinking of many Latin American situations of poverty, inequality and exclusion” which he had seen and which fills one’s heart with indignation.
“These justify, in my opinion, Pope Francis’ strong stance on economic issues … can we not agree with the Pope’s statement that money should serve and not govern?”
Returning to Vatican diplomacy, Archbishop Parolin called the Pope “the first diplomatic ‘agent’ of the Holy See … the tasks and objectives of papal diplomacy are those set out” by the Pope, noting “bridge-building, in the sense of promoting dialogue and negotiation as a means of solving conflict, spreading fraternity, fighting poverty, building peace.”
“There are no other ‘interests’ or ‘strategies’ of the Pope and his representatives when they act on the international scence.”
He also commented that the Syrian Civil War is among the Holy See’s great diplomatic concerns, saying the parties involved need to “grow in mutual trust and the political will to find a negotiated solution.”