Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy Celebrates 300 Years

Author: Archbishop Nikola Eterovic

Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy Celebrates 300 Years

Archbishop Nikola Eterović
Titular Archbishop of Siscia

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 occasions.

The publication is technically well-presented with fine content, and sure to attract the attention of anyone interested in the Diplomacy of the Holy See.

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. Sebastiano Valfrè 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;
— Historical Facts;
— The Third Centenary;
— 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 special attention.

Papal Magisterium

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 goal.

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.

International Conference

The International Conference: "Papal diplomacy, yesterday, today and tomorrow" opened with the greeting (pp. 107-112) in which Archbishop Mullor García 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 dell'unità 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.

Multilateral Diplomacy

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 by faith.

In his commendable article La Diplomatie Pontificale au XX siècle (pp. 145-152), Prof. Joël Benoît 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 diplomacy.

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.

Concluding Observations

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 See.

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 (pp. 35-38).

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.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
16 June 2004, page 4

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