In times of international crisis or debates on key issues, it has become common to hear the voice of the Pope among those of other heads of governments — a trend that is likely to grow in the future, according to the French monthly for future studies, Futuribles (March).
The Holy See is an active participant on the international scene and a number of Catholic NGOs are now engaged in this diplomatic activism as well, writes French political scientist Jérôme Montes. The current Pope has been very eager to use all the possibilities offered by modern media: there is no longer any Papal flight without the company of a few dozens journalists, photographers and cameramen.
Media coverage, beside those media based at the Vatican, is seen as essential for getting a worldwide hearing. The next Pope may even engage in more travel, predicts Montes, since Europe will become less and less the center of Catholicism and there will be a constant need to visit the local churches in other parts of the world in order to strengthen links with them. The Holy See now has diplomatic relations with more States than ever. But its activities also make use of other channels than bilateral diplomatic relations.
Various Catholic international organizations, such as Pax Christi or Sant’Egidio, bring a valuable contribution to Papal diplomatic efforts. The Vatican sees the United Nations as a key forum, and it is not impossible that it will apply in the near future for full membership, instead of keeping its current status as an observer, according to Montes.
Finally, he expects ecumenism and interreligious dialogue to remain an important component of Vatican’s diplomacy in the years to come, although there will be challenges to overcome in the Muslim world and parts of Asia.
(Futuribles, 55 rue de Varenne, 75341 Paris Cedex 07. http://www.futuribles.com)
— By Jean-Francois Mayer