The close working relationship between the Vatican and the U.S. government since the 1980s, known as the “Holy Alliance,” may be coming to an end or significantly changing as it faces a new era of world power relations, reports Inside the Vatican magazine (April).
The alliance was born when President Ronald Reagan and the Vatican under Pope John Paul II cooperated closely in fighting communism. But Andrea Kirk Assaf writes that “a perceptible tension between Rome and Washington became apparent during the 1990s” that intensified as a result of the war in Iraq, which the Vatican has often criticized. The war’s effect of imperiling the fate of the ancient Christian community in Iraq has been a particular sore point with Pope Benedict XVI.
The Bush administration has been fairly close to the Vatican on common pro-life and family concerns, but the prospect of a Democratic presidency may unravel even that tie (the latter’s opposition to the Iraq war notwithstanding). The Vatican is also re-evaluating the alliance as the U.S. position in the world is changing and the nation ceases to be the unilateral power due to the weakness of the dollar and the emergence of new non-Christian powers such as India and China.
The issue of Russia may be another divisive point; Benedict has made ecumenism with the Eastern Orthodox Church a priority and shares with Russia a concern to protect the native Christian communities of the Middle East (which are largely Catholic and Eastern Orthodox), a goal that the U.S. does not necessarily share, Assaf writes. Fr. Sergio Mercanzin of the Russian Ecumenical Center in Rome adds that the “Vatican is a great master of equilibrium between opposed powers.
With Russia and the Vatican, the dialogue is more religious than political because of the Orthodox, while in the United States it’s the other way around. However, between religion and politics things are not always so distinct.”
(Inside the Vatican, P.O. Box 57, New Hope, KY 40052-0057)