|Father Robert John Araujo on Pope's Contributions
SPOKANE, Washington, 17 APRIL 2005 (ZENIT)
John Paul's diplomatic
legacy will remind the world that every person bears the image of our
Creator and loving God.
So says Jesuit Father Robert John Araujo, former legal adviser to the
permanent mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, professor at
Gonzaga University School of Law and co-author of "Papal Diplomacy and
the Quest for Peace: The Vatican and International Organizations from
the Early Years to the League of Nations" (Sapientia).
He shared with ZENIT how John Paul II helped to establish and strengthen
diplomatic relations, mediate disputes and uphold the dignity of the
human person wherever possible.
Q: What is Pope John Paul II's diplomatic legacy?
Father Araujo: Pope John Paul II leaves behind an admirable legacy in
the world of diplomacy.
When he became Pope in 1978, the Holy See had active diplomatic
exchanges with a little more than 80 countries. At the end of his papacy
in 2005, he had more than doubled the diplomatic exchanges to 174.
He also strengthened and increased the Holy See's participation in
international conferences throughout the world that were hosted by a
wide variety of international and regional organizations.
Some of these efforts achieved remarkable results when the Holy See was
asked to mediate the border dispute between Chile and Argentina in the
Through these efforts, the two neighboring states
who were considering the use of armed force to resolve their border
amicably resolved their controversy with the Holy See's assistance and
the Pope's encouragement by entering the Act of Montevideo in 1979. The
successful conclusion was reached in 1984.
His Holiness also sent delegations to major international conferences
dealing with important social and economic issues such as the
International Conference for Population and Development held in Cairo in
1994, the Fourth World Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 and the
Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries for the International
Criminal Court in 1998.
Needless to say, through the courage and inspiration of the Holy Father,
the Church's delegations at these major conferences were able to modify
the concluding texts of these conferences so that the false "rights" of
the culture of death and exaggerated individual autonomy were not
included or recognized and that some of the authentic concerns about the
human family were included.
In the summer of 2004, the Holy See worked closely with the United
Nations General Assembly for the adoption of the first resolution ever
spelling out the rights of a state permanent observer at the U.N.
We must keep in mind that in its history, the U.N. has had many state
for example, Switzerland, Italy, East and West Germany, North and South
Vietnam, North and South Korea, and Japan; however, none of them sought
or received the formalization of their permanent observer status through
the adoption of a resolution.
Q: How did John Paul personally display an aptitude for diplomacy?
Father Araujo: The Holy Father was a gifted man who knew how to work
constructively with people from all regions of the world regardless of
race, ethnicity or religion.
First of all, he continued with great skill the issuance of the annual
World Day of Peace message commenced by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
In addition, he formally convened at the beginning of each New Year the
diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See to discuss with its members
the pressing issues of the global community. He also took the time to
greet personally the new ambassadors who were presenting their
credentials to the Holy See.
Needless to say, he also enjoyed meeting heads of states and other
dignitaries who would be visiting Rome. On these occasions, he ensured
that the Church's views on the pressing issues of the day that
threatened the dignity of the human person were made known to these
powerful officeholders and diplomats.
Finally, he always took the opportunity to use the occasions of his
global apostolic visits to meet with national leaders, some friends and
some foes to the Church, to explore ways of bettering the lives of those
who were oppressed and marginalized. Regardless of their views, these
officials came to respect and even love the Holy Father.
Q: What was the significance of the Pope establishing diplomatic ties
with the United States, Great Britain and Israel during his pontificate?
Father Araujo: The Holy See and the United States enjoyed diplomatic
relations for a while in the 19th century; however, the aftermath of the
Italian Unification led to dissolution of these relations.
They were restored on an informal basis when President Franklin
Roosevelt appointed Myron Taylor, who held the title of "ambassador," as
his personal representative to the Holy See. Formal diplomatic relations
were restored in 1984.
Similarly, the Holy See had a long history of diplomatic ties with the
British going back to the 11th century; full relations were restored in
1982, but a British legation was sent to the Holy See in 1914
several centuries after Henry VIII severed ties with Rome.
It is important to note that in both cases, diplomatic ties were
renewed, not established for the first time. These two re-establishments
were largely due to the efforts of John Paul II in his apostolic visits
to both countries prior to reestablishing diplomatic relations.
He saw the need to concentrate not on past differences and frictions
with these two countries but on shared concerns about the welfare of
members of the human family and the threats they face in the
The 1993 Agreement with Israel demonstrated the Holy See's longstanding
interest in relations with the Jewish people and the security of the
Holy Land. In the context of the latter issue regarding the Holy Land
and Jerusalem, the Holy See expressed its great interest in these
subjects during the British Mandate issued by the League of Nations.
Through the intense labor of John Paul II, the peace and security of the
Middle East remain in high profile in the diplomatic efforts of the Holy
See. These concerns are manifested in discussions with Israeli and
Palestinian authorities about peace in the region, religious liberties,
freedom of conscience and protection of sacred sites.
It should be noted here that the Holy Father approved the establishment
of official relations with the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
Q: John Paul II was the second pope to speak at the United Nations. How
did his visit and the establishment of the Holy See as an observer
influence international affairs?
Father Araujo: In October of 1965, Pope Paul VI was the first pope to
travel to New York to speak before the General Assembly. John Paul II
twice addressed the U.N.
the first time in 1979, the second in 1995.
Although the Holy See approached the U.N. about the participation of
smaller states in its work shortly after the organization's
establishment, it took advantage of the invitations to serve as one of
the 15 members of the Advisory Committee on Refugees established in
1951; consequently, it began to influence international affairs at the
U.N. long before it became a Permanent Observer in 1964.
The Church's expertise was influential in the outcome of the Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees.
In 1955, the Holy See responded to the invitation of Dag Hammarskjöld to
attend the conference that established the International Atomic Energy
Agency whose principal function is to promote the peaceful use of atomic
energy. The Holy See also became a charter member of this important
organization and contributes to its vital work to this day.
As mentioned earlier, the Holy See, under the papacy of John Paul II,
has also defended authentic human rights and the dignity of every person
in numerous U.N. conferences and meetings since 1978.
Under his direction, the Holy See has made numerous major interventions
in the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and even on
occasion before the Security Council when non-member states were
encouraged to provide their wisdom and insights on critical concerns.
John Paul's U.N. legacy will remind the world that every person bears
the image of our Creator and loving God.
Q: What role do you think the future pope should play in international
Father Araujo: That will be for the next pope to decide. However, I
think it is reasonable to expect that he will see the need to continue
in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor.
Of course, John Paul II continued the role of the papacy in the
international order that commenced during the fifth or sixth century.
The Holy Father is the head of the Church, but simultaneously he is also
the head of a sovereign power whose presence in the world has outlasted
any temporal sovereign.
Thus, it is relevant for the new pontiff to take note of his multiple
roles in the world as pastor and sovereign. We must all be mindful of
what Jesus said at the end of St. Mark's Gospel: "Go out to the whole
world; proclaim the Good News to all creation!"
The next pope must be attentive to this as well, and, I think, he will
be. And, for the rest of us, we must simultaneously be alert to what
Jesus told us all: "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers our few."
May our new Holy Father, like his predecessor John Paul II, not be
reluctant to inspire us to take up this challenge which each of us has
received at our baptism. ZE05041723