Cardinal Pietro Parolin Cardinal Pietro Parolin 

Cardinal Parolin: Cardinal Zuppi's Ukraine, Russia mission was important

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, speaks with RAI's Tg1 Vatican correspondent, Ignazio Ingrao, and reiterates on the news programme of Italy's national broadcaster, that we cannot resign ourselves to war. On the possible repatriation of Ukrainian children deported to Russia, he also says that "we are trying to find the various mechanisms" to hopefully implement it.

By Ignazio Ingrao

In an interview aired on Italian State TV's RAI, Tg1, Thursday evening at 8pm, the Vatican Secretary of State takes spoke of the peace mission of Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the Pope's envoy first in Kyiv, and then in Moscow. He also discussed migrants and refugees, hoping for solutions inspired by solidarity, and, 75 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calls for the protection of religious freedom where persecution persists. Below is a working translation in English of the Italian interview:

Your Eminence, is the world in danger of once again splitting into blocs as it had been in the days of the 'Cold War'?

Unfortunately, we have gone from the Cold War to the Third World War 'in pieces' as Pope Francis likes to repeat, but war in one form or another is evidently always antagonism between people, between groups, between States, between continents. And so, today, we are seeing a resurgence of opposing groups. I believe that this is not a new development: for some time now, we have been aware of these divisions, these contrasts, these tensions, within the international community, which then also result in these tragic phenomena, such as conflict and war.

I believe that we absolutely cannot resign ourselves to this drift. We must recover the spirit that animated the international community immediately after the Second World War, which then led to the Helsinki process and the Helsinki declarations, and rediscover those hopes and ideals that were present there, in a very strong way, not least as a consequence of the experience of war, and which made it possible to rebuild the fabric of international relations. 

How can the risk of 'nuclear escalation' be averted?

Nuclear escalation is a significant problem. Today there are nine States that possess nuclear weapons. It seems to me that the tendency is not to reduce nuclear arsenals, but rather to increase them. And the trend is for other States that do not currently possess nuclear weapons to come into possession of them for defence purposes, the famous nuclear deterrence.

The Church's position is clear, the Pope's position is clear: the possession and use of nuclear weapons is immoral because it means the destruction of mankind and the destruction of the world.

How can it be avoided? I believe the only way is to start a serious programme to dismantle these arsenals. There is no other option. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated so that they no longer pose this danger to all mankind.

How would you evaluate Cardinal Zuppi's mission to Kyiv and Moscow, and what are the next steps?

It was a very important mission. The mission to Moscow was part of the global initiative proposed by Pope Francis, which included a first stop in Kyiv and then this second moment in Moscow. On Cardinal Zuppi's part, it focused above all on the humanitarian side: the exchange of prisoners and the repatriation of children, and this required an interlocution with Moscow. I would say that on this point, things went quite well in the sense that the Cardinal was able to see Ushakov, the president's representative and also, Mrs Belova. In fact, there were two meetings with Ushakov, which means that this attention, this will and this interest of the Holy See has been received on the Russian side. Now it will be necessary to find mechanisms that will make it possible to increase, to apply these conclusions that have been reached, probably with the help of some international organisation that will allow these results to be implemented.

Will there be a chance to see these children return?

I don't know yet because we are not yet at this stage. We are now trying to find the various mechanisms. If this works, and we sincerely hope that it does, we will also see repatriation. I don't know now in what quantity and to what extent.

For us, this is important because these humanitarian gestures can also be paths and paths that lead to peace. That is why there is so much emphasis on this humanitarian dimension also as an aid to ending the war.

Sixty years ago, St John XXIII's encyclical 'Pacem in Terris' pointed to truth, justice, freedom and charity, as pillars on which to base peace. What should peace in Ukraine be like?

Peace in Ukraine will have to be a just peace. We have repeated this several times. And so this peace will have to take into account these fundamental principles that are like the pillars that support the house. Without these pillars, every construction runs the risk of being ephemeral and risks falling at the first jolt, at the first difficulties.

I believe that truth means recognising mutual rights and also mutual duties. Above all, it means taking people's dignity into account. And then safeguarding international law, which is fundamental. What the Holy See has always asked is that international law be applied. That all States and nations agree to submit to international law as the way to preserve peace and resolve conflicts. So the theme of dialogue, negotiation, the path of justice and the recognition of borders, the self-determination of peoples, respect for minorities: all these series of principles that are within the theme of international law.

Does the UN need to be reformed? How do you imagine the UN of the future?

Yes, a reform of the United Nations is needed. We as the Holy See have always supported the UN, the popes have always shown their support even by making a concrete visit to the UN headquarters in New York. What we can imagine, what we can dream, what we can wish for. It is really a strengthening of the UN and international organisations.

A strengthening in the sense that all member states know how to act in a spirit directed towards the common good of mankind. It is the concept of the family of nations. Therefore a UN where specific, particular interests do not prevail, where ideologies do not prevail. A UN where the dignity of each state is respected without the prevalence of stronger states. A UN that has the capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts, through the mechanisms suited to the purpose. And in this sense, I believe there is a need for reform so that the UN can go back to being what it is in its foundation. Some steps have been taken, it is not easy ...

The Pope calls on Europe to do its part. But on migration, the EU remains divided. Do we need a more united Europe on migration?

This is a very sad reality, because we are convinced that this issue of migrants is very very serious, we know that the problem of migrants today is one of the great global problems and will not be an easy and immediate solution. It seems to us that the way to the solution is precisely solidarity and a common assumption of this problem, and also of the ways to find an answer to it. I believe that divisions do not serve and increase the difficulties of managing this phenomenon in a humane and orderly manner.

Peace also seems far away in the Middle East. We witness new tensions after the Israeli armed attack in Jenin. What is to be done?

Unfortunately, the situation from time to time undergoes these accelerations and worsenings. The ultimate solution, the horizon on which to move is that of the recognition of two States, this is the solution to the problem in relations between Israelis and Palestinians. To arrive at the Two-State Solution, we need direct dialogue between the two States, which today, as far as I know, does not exist, also because there is a lack of mutual trust, because a dialogue can only be conducted if there is a minimum of mutual trust. Now that trust is destroyed. But it is a bit like a cat biting its own tail because if you don't make some small gestures, some reciprocal gestures, trust will not be recovered.

The first appeal is to avoid the use of violence. Never use violence to solve problems because violence in the meantime increases problems today and tomorrow. Then it is important to start speaking to each other again with a minimum of trust and to seek together a shared solution that will certainly bring peace and prosperity throughout the region based also on UN resolutions'.

Seventy five years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is religious freedom, especially in the West today, also threatened by 'cancel culture' and ideological colonisation?

Religious freedom is one of the pillars of human rights. The Church has always affirmed this because it touches the conscience and the most intimate part of man, and this applies to everyone, even non-believers. And today it seems to me that an attempt is underway to reduce the spaces of religious freedom more and more. We see on the one hand, the continual attacks on places of worship and the continual gestures that undermine religious freedom, the persecutions that there are in the world. And on the other hand, the attempt to prevent faith and morals from having a public voice. I believe that on this anniversary all fundamental human rights must be recovered as they are in the Charter that was approved 75 years ago, and special attention must also be paid to the issue of religious freedom which, as St John Paul II said, is the litmus test for respect for all other rights.

Is the conception of man and woman also at stake?

Certainly. We ask to be able to express our vision of man and woman also publicly. And I am convinced that this vision is the vision born of the Gospel that is rooted in the tradition of the Church. A vision that can truly safeguard, defend and promote man and humanity as a whole and every man and woman in particular. The Church's proposal stems from this, it is not an imposition of a particular vision. We believe we can truly help man and woman to be such and to be happy through adherence to these values inspired by the Gospel.

Even through the protection of the family?

The family is another point particularly in crisis today that deserves greater attention, greater defence, greater promotion by all. Because if there are good families, there are also good societies. We truly believe that the family is the cell of society: if the cells are healthy, the body is also healthy. It is always from this positive vision that our commitment, which is sometimes not understood, is born. I understand that it is also difficult to enter into this perspective: our commitment is to offer the Christian vision to today's world." 

Ignazio Ingrao is Vatican Correspondent of RAI's Tg1

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06 July 2023, 20:00