|The Holy See's school of diplomacy
The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy celebrated its 300th anniversary
with various events from 25 April 2001 to 17 May 2002. The book,
Pontificia Academia Ecclesiastica: Terzo Centenario (1701-2001),
edited by the institution's President, Archbishop Justo Mullor García,
and printed in 2003 by the Vatican Press, contains a description of the
major events and a collection of the speeches given on important
The publication is technically well-presented with fine content, and
sure to attract the attention of anyone interested in the Diplomacy of the
It is obviously difficult to present the history of an Institution so
important to the life of the Church and society in a single volume, even
one of 300 pages. To do this properly, it was necessary among other things
to keep in mind the rich history of the Catholic Church: in this 300-year
period alone, she was governed by 22 Pontiffs.
It was also necessary to consider the complex historical and political
events of the last three centuries, remembering that the Pontifical
Ecclesiastical Academy has also undergone radical reforms and, subsequent
to the Second Vatican Council, also modernization.
Thus renewed, the Pontifical Academy is better equipped to offer its
ecclesial service to the delegations supervised by the Holy Father, the
Successor of Peter and Pastor of the Universal Church. As Cardinal Angelo
Sodano, Secretary of State, points out in his introduction to this volume:
"The dry branches of the tree were cut away and it acquired new vigour"
(p. 5). The 23rd Cardinal Protector of our Institution also appropriately
explains that the publication "briefly outlines a vision of life of a
worthy establishment for ecclesiastical formation, desired by Bl.
and blessed immediately by Pope Clement XI in 1701, at the beginning of
his Pontificate" (p. 5).
The book consists of five parts:
Papal Texts of the Past Fifty Years;
Addresses and Articles;
Appendices with Statistical Data.
The teaching of the Supreme Pontiffs concerning the Diplomatic Service
and the International Conference on the Diplomacy of the Holy See deserve
The first part of the book, Papal Texts of the Past Fifty Years,
begins with the Inaugural Message of His Holiness John Paul II
during his historic Visit to the Pontifical Academy on 26 April 2001. The
selected texts of four Popes
Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II
shed light on the ecclesial vision of the Diplomatic Service of the
Apostolic See and emphasize the moral and religious character of the
priests, Archbishops and Bishops who serve in this office.
Despite differences in style proper to each Pontiff, they all insist on
the need for the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to be a true priestly
community and to offer young priests not only a sound professional
training but also and especially a moral, priestly and pastoral formation.
Two great Popes are proposed as examples of this: Gregory VII and Bl. John
XXIII; even in the Diplomatic Service in which they worked in different
historical periods, they both reached peaks of holiness, an ever timely
Endowed with both human and Christian talents, the Diplomats of the
Holy See are well-equipped to carry out their mission, both in the Church
by fostering communion between the particular Churches and the Universal
Church, and in relations with the representatives of the political and
social community by striving in a context of religious freedom to defend
the rights of God, the Church and man. They will offer their active
participation as collaborators of the Holy See to all the great causes of
humanity, such as the defence and advancement of human rights, and
especially life, peace, justice and freedom.
This section closely concerns the Magisterium, to which the authors of
the various essays presented in other parts of the book frequently refer.
The International Conference: "Papal diplomacy, yesterday, today
and tomorrow" opened with the greeting (pp. 107-112) in which Archbishop
stresses among other things that the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
does not so much claim to be the first school of diplomacy in the world
but rather a "forge of priest-witnesses" (p. 111).
In his brilliant discourse, La Diplomazia Pontificia al servizio
ecclesiale (pp. 113-118), Cardinal Sodano clearly and succinctly
outlines the nature of the mission of Apostolic Nuncios in the context of
the past three centuries, in which the predominant ideologies were often
hostile to the Church. This convincing presentation, the result of his
historical vision and great personal experience in the long years spent in
the service of the Holy See, has enabled the Cardinal Secretary of State
to illustrate with historical facts the importance of the service of the
Holy Father's Representatives; for example, in the organization of the
Council of Trent and the implementation of its deliberations, as well as
in episcopal appointments, including those in countries in which the
sovereigns had the privilege of nominating or presenting Bishops.
The Cardinal proceeds to highlight the essential role of Apostolic
Nuncios in "strengthening and making ever more effective the bonds of
unity that connect the Apostolic See and the particular Churches" (p.
118). Subordinate to this is another important task: increasingly to
promote and maintain relations between the Holy See and the
representatives of the individual States.
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council
for Justice and Peace, points out in his contribution: La Diplomatie
Pontificale au service de la Charité
(pp. 199-123) that there is only one diplomacy for the Apostolic See, but
that it has the two facets of law and charity which impel its
representatives to work for a wounded humanity, saved by Jesus Christ. In
this labour of (com)passion for human beings, the Holy See occupies a
unique place in the world; this is why it champions the poor and promotes
all initiatives that further the cause of justice, peace and forgiveness,
the last guaranteeing the efficacy of both the former.
Indeed, without forgiveness there is neither true peace nor equitable
justice as, for example, the grievous events in the Holy Land have
unfortunately shown. Motivated by this view, the Holy See, with its own
means, sustains or suggests new forms of activity to the international
community, such as humanitarian intervention (p. 120).
Drawing on his precious memories, Hon. Mr Giulio Andreotti, Senator for
life of the Italian Republic, recalls in his article, entitled Gli
uomini del Papa (pp. 125-133), various Holy See Diplomats who played a
significant part in improving relations between the Apostolic See and
Italy, and in the important matter of the stipulation of the Lateran Pacts
in 1929. They also helped disseminate Italy's good name throughout the
world. With regard to the Holy See's presence in the international
community the work of Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Agostino Casaroli was
particularly valuable. Their active participation in drafting the Final
Act of Helsinki in 1975 can be cited as an outstanding example.
Mr Andreotti then justifiably mentions the Apostolic See's important
humanitarian works of charity and information, which in wartime enabled
many to obtain news of their loved ones, victims of the conflicts.
In her intervention, The Diplomacy of Universal Values (pp.
135-144), Prof. Janne Haaland Matlary, former Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs of Norway, reveals that recently the Holy See was
effectively able to combine confidential (secret) and public diplomacy.
The author takes as an example the public stance on vital human and social
issues adopted by the Holy Father John Paul II.
Referring to the importance of the Apostolic See's participation in
multilateral Diplomacy, she underlines the positive results of the
above-mentioned methods in the two World Conferences that took place in
the 1990s: the Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and the
World Conference on Women in Beijing. Lay experts participated in these
Conferences together with ecclesiastics, guaranteeing the Delegation of
the Holy See both doctrinal certainty and professional competence,
especially when it came to the treatment of the mainly technical aspects
of the individual terms. Although the Holy See has no financial interests,
it is in a position to promote successfully the dignity of the human
person in the community of Peoples, as well as the other fundamental
values, presenting them rationally, on the basis of natural law illumined
In his commendable article La Diplomatie Pontificale au XX siècle
(pp. 145-152), Prof. Joël
d'Onorio, Director of the European Institute for Church-State Research,
has very positively portrayed the presence and activity of the Pontiffs
and the Apostolic See in the international arena in the 20th century that
has even been described as the "golden age" of Pontifical Diplomacy. This
observation is based on certain significant facts.
For example, in 1901, there were 21 Ambassadors accredited to the Holy
See. Today the Holy See has diplomatic relations with 176 countries.
In the 20th century the Holy See stipulated no less than 208 Concordats
or Agreements of this kind, the most famous of which is the Treaty with
Italy, signed in the Lateran on 11 February 1929.
It is also necessary to mention certain mediations (arbitrage:
arbitration) which the Holy See carried out during the Pontificates of
Popes Leo XIII, St Pius X and John Paul II (for the Beagle Channel between
Argentina and Chile, from 1978 to 1985).
Also of great importance is the Holy See's presence in international
institutions and consequently, its active participation in multilateral
The author says that in pursuing its traditional diplomacy of patient
and watchful expectation, the Holy See should not despair of relations
with the Russian Federation and with China, where possible failures in the
20th century become challenges for the current 21st century.
I hope that this concise presentation brings home to all the importance
and usefulness of the publication: Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica:
Terzo Centenario (1701-2001). It is not merely the history of a
venerable Institution such as the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy but
rather, in a certain way, of the history of the Holy See's diplomacy
throughout the past three centuries. This is not surprising, considering
the interdependence of the Academy and the Dicasteries of the Apostolic
Indeed, after concluding their studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical
Academy, the priests selected serve as diplomats in Urbe et Orbe
(the city and the world), in the Curia and in the Pontifical
Representations. Some of them become Department Heads and retain their
special ties with the Institution, such as the Secretary of State and the
Sostituto of the Secretariat of State. Other alumni teach a variety
of subjects at the Academy. In brief, the history of the Pontifical
Ecclesiastical Academy reflects in miniature the great goals of the
Diplomacy of the Holy See.
Furthermore, reading this interesting book enriches one's vision: it is
a mosaic with a multiform content, composed of exhortations, directives,
testimonies, important figures, events, reflections, comments, etc., which
makes for a better understanding of the nature and way of proceeding of
the Holy See. The volume also offers very useful information for further
conclusions that will undoubtedly be written by experts on the subject.
.The content of the book also invites certain critical observations. It
gathers contributions from various authors, some with an array of
scientific knowledge who have treated similar topics and drawn from
similar material. Thus, the repetition of citations and data should not
come as a surprise. Indeed, it can be useful, since it enables the reader
to grasp the most important points highlighted by various authors.
Then, the ecumenical and interreligious dialogues that represent two
great challenges to the Church in recent times are only barely mentioned.
Even the effort to promote peace is not given the place it deserves.
However, it must be acknowledged that in order to treat these issues, the
size of the book would have had to be increased considerably.
In any case, this valuable work published by the Vatican Polyglot Press
will undoubtedly be of great value to all who are interested, in an
ecclesial and civil context, in the training of Papal Diplomats and the
activity of the Holy See.
In my capacity as a former student, I believe that the volume will be
of great interest to all my colleagues who spent several years at the
Alma Mater and who will be able to identify with the evocative words
of the most distinguished alumnus, Pope Paul VI, in his description of the
Academy's important role in his human, Christian and priestly formation
It will then indeed be useful to reread the pronouncements of various
Pontiffs who have stressed n the past 50 years the pastoral and apostolic
dimension of the diplomatic service. In this regard, BI. Pope John XXIII's
conviction that the only raison d'être
for the diplomatic service is its pastoral character is well known (p.
195). The Holy Father John Paul II explains later: "Diplomacy is also an
apostolate" (p. 49).
I was personally moved at rereading the two addresses John Paul II gave
to Academy students in 1979 and 1980. The greeting that the 163rd
Successor of St Peter addressed to 13 students who were leaving Rome,
bound for various Nunciatures in 1980 (pp. 39-40) was especially touching.
Today our group consists of only 12, for one of us, Archbishop Michael
Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, was killed on 29 December 2003. The
sacrifice of his life at the height of his mission reinforces the concept
of the Holy See Diplomat as a "priest and witness", a theme which recurs
throughout this work.
I believe that all those who have lived at the Academy, training for
their mission in the Church under the affable gaze of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Mother of the Church, are continuously praying and, as far as it
depends on them, actively ensuring that the Pontifical Ecclesiastical
Academy continues to put into practice the programme Cardinal Sodano
mentions in his preface with far-sighted words: "Thus renewed, this
educational institute will be able to continue training new and generous
priests for the service of the Holy See, as it confronts the new
challenges of the evangelization of the contemporary world at the
beginning of the third Christian millennium" (p. 5).
Not only does this wish echo the hope of all of us who make up the
Diplomatic Service, but also that of many Christians and people of good
will who listen attentively to the voice of the Holy Father, whose moral
and spiritual authority has gone beyond the visible boundaries of the
Catholic Church for years.