ROME — The Vatican risks falling into isolation and irrelevance, warns a veteran Italian journalist Tuesday, as world leaders are finding Pope Francis easier and easier to ignore.
A case in point is the pontiff’s recent call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, which has fallen on deaf ears, writes the leftward-leaning Marco Politi, who began covering the Vatican in 1971. “Never in the last sixty years has the Holy See — in the face of events of international importance — found itself so marginalized.”
“After a year of war in Ukraine, Pope Francis appears isolated,” the 76-year-old journalist writes. “Britain ignores him. U.S. President Biden does not want interference. Putin does not consider the Vatican an effective means of conducting negotiations.”
Meanwhile, “Xi Jinping, for reasons of internal politics, does not intend to give excessive prominence to the position of the Holy See,” he argues, while Zelensky, who once raised the possibility of Vatican mediation, “now only wants one thing: a papal trip to Kyiv to corner Putin even further.”
In his article, Politi calls this an unprecedented situation, “never experienced by Vatican diplomacy.”
The Vatican is pulling out all the stops to woo Beijing into full diplomatic relations, according to veteran Vatican journalist John Allen. https://t.co/MTRbud5qgW
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In European chancelleries, “Francis’ voice is respected but marginalized, silenced,” he contends, while it is whispered among diplomats that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Foreign Minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, feel “uncomfortable” with the pope’s intransigence.
By contrast, during the Cuban missile crisis, both Kennedy and Khrushchev sought Vatican mediation, Politi asserts, and even during the Obama presidency, “Washington found it convenient to smooth relations with Havana through the Vatican.”
Similar, Pope John Paul’s firm “no” to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 garnered universal support from the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Church, the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Russia, and the Council of Churches of the United States he writes.
Perhaps Francis’ prolific appeals for peace and incessant calls for streamlined international migration, dramatically reduced carbon emissions, and a hyper-regulated economy have squandered his moral capital.
The Vatican’s evolution into an echo chamber of progressive causes may have rendered its message less prophetic and easier to tune out, and as more than one cynic has suggested, maybe this is what Francis intended all along.