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Holy See Diplomacy: a study of non-alignment in the post-World War Two era

by Nicholas J. Hercules


A scholarly dissertation which seeks to analyze and refute the hypothesis that the Holy See has politically aligned itself during the post-World War Two era.

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Original, January 5, 1999

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A dissertation submitted to the University of Bristol in accordance with the requirements of the degree of Master of Science in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Politics.

30 September, 1998


The purpose of this dissertation is to analyse and refute the hypothesis that the Holy See has politically aligned itself during the post-World War Two era. Indeed it will be argued that the Holy See has done all in its power to remain non-aligned and neutral. This does not mean however that the Holy See need avoid "a de facto alliance" in all matters political. The argument shall be supported by analysis of the post-war periods as defined by the reign of each of the Popes. It will exclude analysis of Pope John Paul I due to the brevity of his pontificate. For each of the four post-war Pontiffs included in this study, his significant contributions to international diplomacy will be examined in order to ascertain if he maintained the non-aligned policy of the Holy See.

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.

(not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory)

Psalm 113:1

Author’s Declaration 

I declare that the work in this dissertation is original except where indicated by special reference in the text and no part of the dissertation has been submitted for any other degree. Any views expressed in the dissertation are those of the author and in no way represent those of the University of Bristol. The dissertation has not been presented to any other University for examination either in the United Kingdom or overseas. 

30 September, 1998


"In any case I long ago realised that it is almost impossible for a layman and a non-Catholic, and indeed for most Catholics and ecclesiastics outside the Vatican City, to form a valid judgement or express an authoritative opinion on Papal policy. The Pope’s decision may, or must be influenced by so many imponderable or invisible elements. Moreover, not only is the atmosphere of the Vatican supernatural and universal...but it is also fourth-dimensional, and so to speak, outside of time...for example, they can regard the Savoy dynasty as an interlude, and the Fascist era as an incident, in the history of Rome and Italy. They reckon in centuries and plan for eternity and this inevitably renders their policy inscrutable, confusing and, on occasion, reprehensible to practical and time-conditioned minds."

Sir D’Arcy Osborne, March 1947

British Ambassador to the Holy See

Chapters Page

Pontifex Maximus — The Bishops of Rome 7

I Introduction 8

I i History of the Vatican City State 9

I ii Origins of Non-Alignment and Permanent Neutrality 11

I iii The Holy See, the Vatican City State, and the Catholic Church 12

I iv The Mission and Role of the Holy See 14

I v Holy See Diplomats 16

I vi Holy See Diplomacy 18

II Pius XII 20

II i Soviet Communism 20

II ii Chinese Communism 23

II iii The Post-War Palestine Issue 23

II iv Newly Independent States 24

II v Nuclear Weapons 25

II vi Pius XII and Non-Alignment 26


III i Ostpolitik 29

III ii Developing Nations 31

III iii Nuclear Weapons and the Arms Race 32

III iv John XXIII and Non-Alignment 33

IV Paul VI 35

IV i At the United Nations 36

IV ii International Travel 36

IV iii Casaroli’s Ostpolitik 38

IV iv The Superpowers: Vietnam and the Helsinki Final Act 39

IV v The Third World 40

IV vi An Apologia for Holy See Diplomacy 41

IV vii Paul VI and Non-Alignment 42

V John Paul II 44

V i The Collapse of Soviet Communism 46

V ii Critique of The Superpowers 48

V iii Human Rights and The United Nations 50

V iv The Cairo Conference 52

V v Cuba and Nigeria 54

V vi John Paul II and Non-Alignment 55

VI Conclusion 58

VII Glossary 61

VIII References 64


Pontifex Maximus 


Pius XII Eugenio Pacelli 2 March 1939 - 9 October 1958

John XXIII Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli 28 October 1958 - 3 June 1963

Paul VI Giovanni Battista Montini 21 June 1963 - 6 August 1978

John Paul I Albino Luciani 26 August - 28 September 1978

John Paul II Karol Jozef Wojtyla 16 October 1978 -

I. Introduction

In order to understand the nature of the Papacy in its temporal capacity, as opposed to its supernatural one, the means by which the Papacy has acquired both its temporal sovereignty and diplomatic status will first be demonstrated, and the difference explained between the much misunderstood appellations: the Holy See, the Vatican, and the Catholic Church.

The term diplomacy as understood in this dissertation is not merely a synonym for foreign policy. Due to the Church’s global presence, she does not recognise the term foreign policy, as no policy can, by definition, be foreign. The Holy See does not therefore have a Department of Foreign Affairs but one of Extraordinary Affairs.

Diplomacy as understood in this dissertation is the most direct and formal contact between states. It is the management of international relations by negotiation; the method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors (or in the case of the Holy See, Nuncios) and envoys. The "ecclesiastical diplomacy" conducted by the Holy See is not less diplomatic for being ecclesiastical. Moreover the Holy See follows closely the essential functions and operations associated with civilian diplomacy.

The end of World War Two was an historical fault line in our history, and coupled to the pontificate of Pius XII — who developed Catholic teaching on the international order — it characterises a logical starting point for this study. Pope Pius XII sought to provide moral guidance in the vacuum preoccupying the international actors after the devastation wrought by World War Two. Indeed, O’Brien and Shannon, and Duffy argue that the Church emerged from the terrible experience with her prestige enhanced and as one of the few transnational actors left unbroken. This she was able to do by making herself skilfully accessible to both sides throughout the war.

I.i History of the Vatican City State

For many centuries the Popes bore temporal sway over a territory stretching across Italy and comprising some 17,000 square miles with a population of over three million. The Pope was the sovereign of these Papal States until 1870, when the Kingdom of Italy was unified under the Piedmontese Government, thereby illegally expropriating the Papal States. The removal of the Papal States was considered a hostile act by the Pope, Pius IX (1846 - 1878), who refused, along with his successors, to relinquish his claims for temporal authority and acknowledge the unified Kingdom of Italy. In protest at this suppression of the Papal States, the Popes declared themselves to be prisoners of the Vatican. This dispute subsequently became known as the Roman Question. From 1870 to 1929 there were no Papal States as the Pope, and therefore the Holy See, was confined to the grounds of the Vatican. Throughout this period the Holy See, despite having no sovereign territory, it continued to send and receive numerous diplomatic missions and to remain a subject of international law. Thus, the sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff was universally accepted, even though, through the lapsing of its temporal power, that sovereignty had become purely spiritual. The so-called Roman Question was finally settled by the Lateran Treaty signed on 11 February 1929, between the Holy See and Italy. As a result of this treaty, the Holy See acquired a tangible body in the shape of the diminutive independent territory of the Vatican City to "guarantee absolute independence for the fulfilment of its exalted mission in the world." This was a mere 0.44 square kilometres in area, yet "just enough to contain the soul," remarked the Pope, Pius XI (1922-1939). Furthermore, he declared that he wanted to show,

...that no worldly desires move the Vicar of Christ, but only the sense of conscientious obligation of claiming something which it is impossible not to claim. Since territorial sovereignty is universally regarded as a necessary condition of all true jurisdictional sovereignty, hence at least such an extent of territory is necessary as will suffice to support such sovereignty and, lacking which, it could not survive for want of a supporting foundation... It will, we trust, be clear to all that the Supreme Pontiff has, indeed, only such an extent of territory as is indispensable for the exercise of a spiritual power entrusted to men for the benefit of mankind.

As a guarantee of the independent character of such sovereignty over souls, the Pope had regained his temporal sovereignty. Today it remains the smallest sovereign state in the world.


I.ii Origins of Non-Alignment and Permanent Neutrality

The roots of the Holy See’s non-alignment and neutrality can be traced back clearly to the Lateran Treaty signed with Italy in 1929, thereby creating the Vatican City State which was "to be politically sovereign, because the world today recognises no form of sovereignty other than the territorial form." In Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty it states,

...the Holy See declares that it desires to take, and shall take, no part in any temporal rivalries between other states, nor in any international congresses called to settle such matters, save and except in the event of such parties making a mutual appeal to the pacific mission of the Holy See, the latter reserving in any event the right of exercising its moral and spiritual power.

The Vatican City shall, therefore, be invariably and in every event considered as neutral and inviolable territory.

Pius XI illuminated the permanent neutrality of the Church concerning political powers,

The Church remains neutral or, better still, since this term is too passive and ambiguous, impartial and independent. The Holy See does not allow itself to be dominated by any power or group of political powers even if people constantly affirm the contrary. It may sometimes happen, because of certain circumstances, that the path followed by the Holy See coincides with that of a particular power. But as far as the starting point and the end of their journey is concerned the Church and her supreme head follow solely their own law, the mission which they have inherited from their divine founder and which consists in winning for God all men without distinction and in bringing them to Him, whatever their nationality.

Duursma, furthermore, writing in 1996 upon the Holy See’s neutrality declared,

The international actions of the Holy See are not in the first place inspired by the wish to remain neutral, but by the moral values prescribed by divine law. In appealing to certain governments, the Holy See does not make any distinction on grounds other than the problems concerned.

I.iii The Holy See, the Vatican City State, and the Catholic Church

The Holy (or Apostolic) See, the Vatican City State and the Catholic Church are separate entities and are not to be confused as synonyms. The Holy See and the Vatican City State are recognised in international law as two separate entities (though only the Vatican City is legally recognised as a state), a peculiarity which law scholars have debated since the signing of the Lateran Treaty and continue to debate today. However, Kunz explains that even prior to 1870 there were two subjects of international law: the Papal States and the Holy See. The Holy See could be considered as the official government of the Vatican City State and the supreme organ of the government (comprising the Pope, the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals) of the Catholic Church. The Vatican City State, however, was not established with an autonomous purpose but as a means to support a religious body. The Catholic Church is the universal society of the faithful — a body which transcends national boundaries. Indeed Vallier contends that the Catholic Church herself is a "transnational actor." The Holy See existed before the Vatican City State and was therefore able, due to its recognised status as a legal personality, to sign the Lateran Treaty with Italy. The term Papacy is widely used as a synonym for the government of the Church and the State, namely the Holy See; this standard usage shall be continued in this dissertation.

The Pope derives his supreme spiritual authority from the doctrine of Petrine succession, which maintains that there exists a continuous and uninterrupted transmission of ministry from the time of the Apostles of Jesus Christ until today, and therefore, as the Bishop of Rome, the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. The Pope derives his temporal power, de jure, from his position as the supreme and absolute monarch of the Vatican City State which is governed by the Holy See and, de facto, by his position as head of the Catholic Church. Hence the criticism levelled at the Holy See — by, among others, Abdullah and Neale — for being a religion which has acquired the status of a sovereign state. However it has already been stated that Holy See diplomacy has a firm basis in international law.

 I.iv The Mission and Role of the Holy See

Although the founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ, proclaimed that "My Kingdom is not of this world", paragraph 42 of the Document of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et Spes, clarifies the Holy See’s position as a political actor,

Christ gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which he set before her is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself came a function, a light, and an energy which can serve to construct and consolidate the human community according to the divine law.

Moreover, in virtue of her mission and nature, she is bound to no particular form of human culture, nor to any political, economic or social system. Hence the Church by her very universality can be a very close bond between diverse human communities and nations. For this reason, the Church admonishes her own sons, but also humanity as a whole, to overcome all strife between nations and races in this family spirit of God’s children.

From her origins, Williams and Houck maintain, the Catholic Church has tried to influence society benevolently. Indeed, earthly progress can contribute to the better ordering of society because it is, according to Gaudium et Spes, "of vital concern to the Kingdom of God" (my emphasis).

The role of the Holy See can perhaps be best understood as expressed by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the current Under-Secretary for Relations with States (an office equivalent to that of Foreign Minister) who tells us, "the Holy See is not a state, but a sovereign moral force, the expression of the Papacy on the international scene." And Fr. Reese christens the Holy See, "a moral superpower in international affairs."

The Church’s primary role is the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls; a mission she regards as lofty and noble, carrying on a role assigned to her by God. To be effective she must embrace the temporal well-being of believers and non-believers alike. This mission, which she deems to be divinely assigned to the Papacy, is the defence of the eternal values of morals and of theological truths, related to all aspects of public and private life. The indirect power of the Papacy may be defined as the right to intervene in temporal matters when superior and moral interests are at stake. Pius XII affirmed the Church could not renounce the authority assigned to her by God, an authority not in those technical fields where she has neither suitable means nor the mission to deal, but in all that is related to morals and religion. Therefore, the Holy See, due to its religious nature and its responsibility for the moral welfare of a constituent of the population in disparate states, would be unable to adopt a position against this or that state. For this very reason Duursma claims that states value the spiritual, non-political contribution of the Holy See. Further, "the Holy See is ready to intervene in a disinterested manner and with an independent judgement, in the service of all even amidst the most violent political agitation, wherever the welfare of mankind requires its aid." Due to its spiritual mission, which is quite alien to any political preoccupation or competition, the Holy See attracts alliances which invariably change over time. Unconcerned by shifting alliances of wholly earthly powers, the Holy See, in the words of a serving Papal Nuncio,

...reserves for itself all that directly or indirectly concerns i) its lofty mission of peace: there are many international problems which, from a moral, spiritual, social or charitable point of view, form the object of the Holy See’s particular care and concern, and for the solution of which the Pope’s intervention is requested; ii) its moral and spiritual authority: it is one of the principle duties of the Pope to exercise this authority by appealing to the conscience not only of individuals but especially of governments, in favour of mutual respect between the peoples for the principles of charity and justice which are necessary to ensure concord and universal peace. His influence must be shown both directly by personal interventions or indirectly by the action of its diplomatic representatives in favour of all the world without distinction.

I.v Holy See Diplomats

"We are Ambassadors for Christ."

The first Pontifical Nunciature was established in Venice in 1500. Papal diplomacy flourished particularly throughout the seventeenth century and after the Congress of Vienna. All Holy See diplomats are ecclesiastics who have trained at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. This institution was established in 1701 at a time when all the leading secular powers, Britain, France, Germany and the United States, lacked comparable institutions. Henceforth, diplomats for the Holy See have been held in high regard by their secular colleagues and are renowned for their wide knowledge and professionalism. Indeed, Alessandrini is of the opinion that Holy See diplomats are the finest in the world. Moreover, the Holy See is generally thought to be the best sounding-board and observation post in the world, due to the Church’s singularly unique presence across the globe from capital cities to rural villages. Using its vast network, the Church is often in receipt of local news before the secular powers. Clear and objective judgements are thought to come from Holy See diplomats due to their very impartiality. By virtue of an established custom, recognised at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Nuncio of the Holy See is acknowledged as the doyen of the diplomatic corps in the country to which he is accredited.

The diplomats of the Holy See have two primary functions which distinguish them from civil diplomats: the ecclesiastical mission to the local Catholic Church and the worldly diplomatic assignment in the receiving state. These latter duties are not of the traditional national interests of a material nature, as the Holy See does not operate to serve the Vatican City State. There are no political standpoints or territorial positions or economic interests to defend, solely a desire to promote the mission of the Church, namely the quest for peace. In keeping with the Church’s mission, the spiritual is of prior importance to the material, which makes the Holy See’s role more supranational than international. Holy See Diplomacy

"In many ways a continuing validation of the Holy See’s spiritual authority is highly dependent on its capacities as a political and diplomatic actor."

The Holy See encourages an active diplomacy, and currently sustains formal diplomatic relations with over 160 nations and the European Union. In accordance with established diplomatic etiquette, nations reciprocate by maintaining an equal number of missions to the Holy See. The Holy See is strongly represented in international organisations, yet participates only when its interests are threatened. International organisations of which the Holy See is a full member include: the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Conference on Free Trade Unions, the International Telecommunications Union, the Universal Postal Union, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The Holy See has a non-member-state permanent observer status at the following: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Council of Europe, the Organisation of American States, the International Organisation for Migration, and the World Tourism Organisation. Using these manifold, diverse fora, the Holy See has a valuable platform from which to conduct its mission of service to mankind, when "important questions of a moral, social, humanitarian and cultural order" are under discussion. This platform is complemented by a steady flow of encyclicals, apostolic letters and exhortations, messages to world leaders, and, increasingly since Paul VI, international pastoral visits by the Pope. Due to its religious nature however, and the moral absolutes it must uphold, the Holy See has a reputation for rigidity, as compromise is not a tool in its diplomatic armoury.

II. Pius XII

Pius XII had been, since the genesis of his pontificate, acutely aware of the importance of upholding Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty. This is evident in his remarks to the Minister of Lithuania to the Holy See, on the dangers to religion in the Soviet expansion in the Baltic regions on 18 October 1939,

Conscious of the duties proper to our office as supreme pastor, we will not, without its being requested of us, let our action, always directed towards the salvation of souls, become involved in purely temporal controversies or territorial competitions between states. But the very duty of our office does not permit us to close our eyes when the new incommensurate dangers arise precisely for the salvation of souls.

Pius XII grappled with all the pressing affairs of his day, the most critical of which will be examined in detail. Among these affairs were Communism in both the Soviet Union and China, the juridical status of the administration of Jerusalem, the emergence of nuclear weapons, and the newly created independent post-colonial states. Pius XII orchestrated the diplomatic machinery of the Holy See primarily through the employment of Papal encyclicals and numerous public addresses.

II.i Soviet Communism

Pius XII had guided the Church through the trauma of World War Two and consequently the Church’s prestige and dignity had been enhanced. However new challenges and threats to world peace lay ahead in the wake of the defeated Nazis. The Cold War and the growth of the ideological blocs of East and West, Communism and Capitalism, preoccupied the political leaders of the day, and Pius XII saw his role in providing moral direction in the international system. This manifested itself in the concept of order, within which Pius XII addressed the issue of war and peace. It was an era in which the power and destruction wrought by the atomic bomb was vivid and palpable in the world’s conscience. Pius XII however saw no moral equivalence in the two blocs. Communist doctrine was atheistic, consequently placing the Soviet Union at direct variance to the divine mission of the Holy See. He therefore articulated a strongly anti-Communist position that made the Papacy, in the eyes of the Western forces, its ideological leader. His first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, promulgated on 20 October 1939, condemned the great error of the godless state; the error which "divorces civil authority from every kind of dependence upon the Supreme Being." This pronouncement was building on the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris by Pius XI, which laid the theoretical foundation for the Church’s attitude toward Marxism. It proclaimed, "Communism is intrinsically wrong and no one who would save Christian civilisation may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever." In a 1947 radio address Pius XII asserted, "the Church condemns existing Marxist regimes" due to the state totalitarianism and narrow individualism which they produced. In the very same address, he exhorted landowners in South America to pay a just wage to their labourers. In a 1949 address in St Peter’s Square, Pius XII solemnly stated,

It is only too well known what the totalitarian, anti-religious state...demands of the Church as the price of her tolerance: a Church that is silent when she should preach; a Church that does not oppose the violation of conscience and does not protect the true freedom of the people and her well founded rights; a Church that, with a dishonourable, slavish mentality, closes herself within the four walls of her temples.

Most Western leaders were gratified to have the moral support that comes from holding a corresponding posture as that maintained and expounded by the Holy See. Pius XII began to offer a new affirmation of democratic structures. Christian Democratic governments became major vehicles for the rebuilding of western European society. With Communism turning viciously against the Church in eastern Europe, the Holy See was very interested in forces that surfaced as bulwarks to the Communists’ advance.

Pius XII in September 1950 made it unequivocally clear that in condemning Communism he was not identifying the Church with capitalism. He was however also anxious to avoid the impression that the Church was engaged in a crusade against Russia or the Russian people. In 1952 he wrote, "to the most dear Russian peoples... The responsibility of our office compels us to condemn and reject the errors preached by the atheistic Communists." On the whole Pius XII’s comments on Communism prior to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956, were moderate and restrained in content and number. After the invasion of Hungary he issued an unprecedented three encyclicals in ten days, culminating in a denunciation of the Soviet action.

II.ii Chinese Communism

The Communists’ 1949 victory in China led to the systematic persecution of the Church, and consequently the Holy See’s anti-Communist position was reinforced. In 1950 the Chinese Communists began to propagate their Triple Autonomy programme of self-support, self-evangelization and self-government. For condemning the newly established Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, which had already severed its link with Rome, Pius XII was in turn condemned as an agent of American imperialism by the Chinese Communist government. The Pope condemned the Three Autonomies in his 1954 encyclical Ad Sinarum Gentem. However, notwithstanding the diplomatic hostilities between the Holy See and the Chinese Communists, Sino-Holy See diplomatic relations were not broken off until 1958, seven years after the Nuncio had been expelled from China.

II.iii The Post-War Palestine Issue

In order to protect the Catholic Church’s interests in the Middle East, namely the Holy Places of Christianity, the Holy See declared that the best solution would be the internationalisation of Jerusalem. The Holy Places, an area of immense significance to all Christians, would thus be removed from Jewish or Arab control. While the major political powers discussed the issue there was no public comment by the Holy See throughout 1947, and L’Osservatore Romano conspicuously avoided any debate on the matter. Finally Pius XII spoke of the need for "an international character to Jerusalem and its vicinity" in his encyclical In Multiplicibus Curis, promulgated on 24 October 1948.

In his encyclical Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus, promulgated on 15 April 1949, Pius XII implored the Catholic world to unite in order to protect the Holy Places, and work for the internationalisation of Jerusalem by lobbying their governments. Strong pressure was applied by the faithful in France, Italy, Spain and America. Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, spoke directly with President Truman, and was vehemently critical of America’s support for Israel’s admission to the United Nations. The Holy See campaigned for an acceptance of the Australian proposal that would place Jerusalem directly under United Nations administration, a proposal fiercely challenged by Israel, and opposed by the United Kingdom and America. The reaffirmation of the General Assembly of the United Nations’ desire on 9 December 1949 to internationalise the region of Jerusalem was attributed by Ferrari to the Holy See’s unstinting diplomatic efforts. The Palestine Post reported, "Papal Nuncios in almost every UN state visited heads of government with the result that almost identical cables were received by Latin American and other delegations ordering them to support the Australian resolution."

II.iv Newly Independent States

In the immediate post-war period, it is striking how many non-Christian states in Asia and Africa, especially Muslim, entered into diplomatic relations with the Holy See. This was in recognition of the favourable attitude the Church had adopted towards the independence movement, and specifically, her critical comments on the colonial states. In a 1947 radio address in which he condemned Marxism, Pius XII reminded the colonial powers of their obligations and responsibilities, as he highlighted peoples’ rights to self-determination. These newly independent countries were impressed by all that had been accomplished by the Holy See during the global conflagration. In the aftermath of the war the tributes enjoyed by the Papacy in the international sphere certainly encouraged the diplomatic initiatives of the newly independent states. For example, in 1950 American Under-Secretary of State Sumner Wells said, "No unprejudiced American citizen, whatever his creed may be, can deny that the Vatican constitutes one of the most powerful moral forces in the world today."

II.v Nuclear Weapons

During his 1946 Christmas address, Pius XII lectured on the pressing need for disarmament in the light of new and terrible means of devastation which were now readily available. He pleaded that nuclear energy be used solely for the service of mankind, not to bring about its annihilation. Furthermore, in his 1950 Christmas address he emphasised, "In a war today arms would be so destructive as to render the world an empty waste, the desert not of its dawn but of its sunset. All states, all citizens would be involved, all institutions and values imperilled at once." It was reminiscent of his celebrated remark in his radio message of 24 August 1939 on the eve of World War Two, "Nothing is lost through peace, all can be lost through war." Pius XII and Non-Alignment

Critics allege that Pius XII moved the Holy See in the direction of the Western alliance in order to counter the Soviet-inspired menace of Communism, and therefore away from the Holy See’s declared traditional position of non-alignment. Yet these very same critics maintain a silence on the Holy See’s fierce opposition to the stances of America and the United Kingdom concerning the founding of the state of Israel in 1947 and the question of the legal jurisdiction of Jerusalem. Was Pius XII inconsistent in his stance on non-alignment? Pius XII himself declared in his 1951 Christmas radio address that the Holy See could not remain neutral between right and wrong. And in these words lie the essence of the Holy See’s positioning throughout the reign of Pius XII. Throughout the 1950s, both America and the Holy See supported and recognised the Chinese National Government in Taiwan. Pius XII spoke frequently on the problems of the day, and carefully avoided being uncritically pro-Western, especially pro-American. However, he never avoided criticising either of the two Cold War adversaries when he felt their actions endangered souls. He denounced nuclear weapons and cautioned on the peril of unbridled capitalism. Social justice was utmost in his thoughts when upbraiding the colonial powers. Clearly, upon careful analysis, Pius XII’s critics cannot substantiate their criticism of his putative Western-alignment when it is placed under serious scrutiny. Further, Pius XII saluted the advent of the United Nations and he expressed his optimism that it might become a full and pure expression of international solidarity in peace.

When he died in 1958, Pope Pius XII was the object of unanimous admiration and gratitude. "The world," President Eisenhower declared, "is now poorer following the death of Pope Pius XII." And Golda Meir, Foreign Secretary for the State of Israel, said, "Life in our time was enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths over the tumult of daily conflicts. We lament the loss of a great servant of peace."


John XXIII was an enormously popular and amiable Pontiff, both inside and outside the faithful of the Church. He ushered in a new era for the Church and in her relationship with the world through the aggiornamento (bringing [the Church] up to date) he inspired at the momentous Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) (1962-65). Although John XXIII faced a similar diplomatic situation to that which confronted Pius XII — with the superpowers locked in conflicts from Berlin to Cuba — he faced none of the criticism heaped upon his predecessor Pius XII by the Soviet Union and latterly by revisionist historians. John XXIII’s personality touched a vital nerve in both the Eastern and Western blocs, and consequently the whole world seemed eager to hear what he had to say. To John XXIII, "the sign of the times" demanded that political antagonists enter into dialogue, as the Church herself demonstrated through her aggiornamento. For, as Cardinal Casaroli asserted, "Man is made for dialogue...and the man who does not talk to others; who is not open to reality, does not listen, does not answer, is like a plant denied nourishment from the soil."

Conscious as to the importance of the impartiality of the Church and the Holy See, Pope John XXIII as head of both bodies, told the Second World Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in June 1959, "The Church does not identify herself with a single culture — not even with the Western culture with which her history is so clearly bound because her mission is on another plane: that of the religious salvation of man." John XXIII was keen to continue the stretching out of the Church’s hand to the poorer countries, a policy initiated by his immediate predecessor. Hence the importance of maintaining the non-aligned position of the Church and the Holy See in all their actions. Yet rather than concentrate solely on the material want of the developing nations, he correspondingly placed the Holy See at the forefront of the war on moral want through an unprecedented and highly orchestrated campaign at awakening the consciences of the privileged nations. Using his immense personal charm and charisma, John XXIII stimulated these nations into responsible behaviour, in order to remove the economic and social inequalities of the developing nations. His exhortations, fundamental vehicles for the Holy See’s diplomatic mission during his pontificate, were evident most perceptibly in his two influential encyclicals, Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris.

III.i Ostpolitik

The opening up to the East by the Holy See — the so-called Ostpolitik — was instituted by John XXIII as he sought a limited engagement with the Soviet Communists, rather than Pius XII’s emphasis on containment. In 1959 Cuba became the first Communist state to entertain diplomatic relations with the Holy See; the dam of containment had been ruptured. With the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 threatening the peace of the world, Pope John XXIII issued a famous appeal for peace. He paid tribute to the magnificence of rational thinking; warned those rulers of the danger of a limitless cataclysm; and appealed to them to avoid neglecting the enormous obligation history placed on their shoulders. This is said to have moved the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to describe the Pope’s plea as "a good sign."

The height of the Cuban missile crisis coincided with the opening of Vatican II, and again John XXIII appealed for peace in his inimitable fashion. On the opening day of the Council, he invited the 86 diplomatic missions present at the ceremony to an audience at the Sistine Chapel. With most of the world represented he directed their attention to Michelangelo’s fresco of The Last Judgement, and warned them that one day they would have to give account for their actions to the Supreme Being. He declared,

Let all who bear the responsibility of government hear the anguished cry which, from every part of the world, from innocent children to old men, from individuals and communities, rises to heaven: peace, peace. May the thought that [the leaders of nations] will have to render their own account prevent them from ever neglecting any opportunity to achieve that good which for the human family is the highest good of all.

John XXIII received Khrushchev’s daughter and son-in-law, the editor of Izvestia — a Soviet Government daily newspaper — at the Vatican for an audience, in which the Pope spoke on the "perfect supranational neutrality of the Church and her visible chief". Khrushchev also sent his Ambassador accredited to Italy to represent the Soviet Union at the conferment of the Balzan Peace Prize to John XXIII in 1963 in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. In his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII refused to condemn Communism, thereby causing the Americans, in particular the CIA, to accuse the Pope of giving comfort to the Communists. He saw no reason why there should not be collaboration in certain fields. Moreover, John XXIII dedicated the final months of his life to establishing new political and diplomatic relations with the Communist countries, and to ending the oppression of Catholics under Communism. The opening up to the East by the Holy See had truly begun yet, characteristically, John XXIII had carefully maintained his, and the Holy See’s, neutrality.

III.ii Developing Nations

On 5 June 1960, addressing the faithful of the newly independent African countries John XXIII said, "We are glad to express to you again our great satisfaction at seeing the attainment of sovereignty gradually realised; the Church rejoices at this and trusts in the will of these young states to take their rightful place in the family of nations."

In Mater et Magistra, promulgated in 1961, John XXIII created a sensation whilst writing on social justice and international relations. He excited a universal response with his concern for social and material welfare, peace and international reconciliation, and human and political rights. John XXIII was positioning the Church to facilitate a more positive approach to contemporary politics, and social and economic reform. Again he rejoiced at the newly found sovereignty of the African and Asian peoples: "We are witnessing the breakaway from colonialism and the attainment of political independence by the peoples of Asia and Africa. Drawn together by their common needs, nations are becoming daily more independent."

In the same encyclical John XXIII continued by berating the neo-colonial powers of both East and West:

There is a further temptation which the economically developed nations must resist: that of giving technical and financial aid with a view to gaining control over the political situation in the underdeveloped countries, and furthering their plans for world domination. Let us be quite clear on this point. A nation acting from these motives would in fact be introducing a new form of colonialism — cleverly disguised, no doubt, but in no respect less blameworthy than that from which many nations have recently emerged.

Certainly Pope John was a vocal champion of the underprivileged, and never recoiled from his duty of protecting the weakest in the world. The developing countries duly showed their confidence and appreciation of the Pope’s concern by establishing full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

III.iii Nuclear Weapons and the Arms Race

John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris received an enthusiastic reception throughout the world. He reasserted the Papacy’s responsibility to promote political, economic and social harmony around the globe, and appealed to rulers’ rational reasoning ability when conducting man’s affairs. He urged them to use a dignified discourse at all times in order to avoid fuelling resentment and misunderstanding. This encyclical, coupled to the opening of Vatican II, aroused the imagination of the world. In addition to the central theme of denouncing the arms race as utterly irrational, John XXIII used Pacem in Terris, one of the most comprehensive Papal discussions of political and social problems, to attract the world’s attention to the social and economic problems of the day: colonialism and the problems of development, the United Nations, and international peace in general. John XXIII argued that the arms race striped individuals and nations, particularly the poor, of the economic goods necessary for social advancement. Moreover, he argued that the arms race was an utterly treacherous trap for humanity which ensnared the poor to an intolerable degree. It also caused individuals to live in permanent dread not only of nuclear war but also of the hazards from nuclear testing. The Pope argued that justice, reason and humanity demanded that the arms race should cease, that nuclear weapons should be banned, and that progressive disarmament commence. John XXIII was propelling the Church and the Holy See, through the advent of Vatican II and Pacem in Terris, to participate, as a voice of reason, in the world community’s twentieth century conflict-resolutions. His actions offered mankind a new standard of human rights and world peace.

III.iv John XXIII and Non-Alignment

Arguably John XXIII’s greatest diplomatic achievement was the rapprochement of Soviet-Holy See relations achieved through his willingness to engage the Soviets in dialogue and avoid explicit criticism of Communism in his encyclicals and calls for peace, especially during the Berlin Wall and Cuban missile crises.

John XXIII’s abiding legacy was even more impressive, as he was able to convince the world, more through his example than by lofty rhetoric, that the Holy See was not merely or even primarily concerned with the interests and claims of Catholics, but rather with the needs of all mankind. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent a message to the Pope saying that news of his worsening health "has seriously disturbed us." The message expressed a wish for his recovery and for the successful continuation of his "fruitful activity for the benefit of the consolidation of peace and peaceful co-operation between peoples." Upon his death, the United Nations in New York took the unusual step of flying its flags at half-mast in recognition of his services to mankind in the relentless pursuit of peace. President John F. Kennedy said under John XXIII the "Papacy’s influence [was] raised to new levels," and "his concern for the human spirit transcended all boundaries of belief or geography." Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies expressed, "He was a splendid servant of humanity."

"The Church has no enemies," John XXIII told Secretary of State, Agostino Casaroli, and he noted how Pope John XXIII’s goodness had melted away the ideological ice flows of the blocs during times of imminent catastrophe.

IV. Paul VI

Pope Paul VI in 1965 successfully concluded the Council that John XXIII had conceived and opened. Its seminal document Gaudium et Spes called the Church to a more vigorous ministry in defence of human dignity, human rights and international peace. Gaudium et Spes legitimised, in the eyes of the Church, her social ministry. The aggiornamento which John XXIII had instigated was complete and the Church was well-positioned to conduct her ministry to the world into the next millennium.

Paul VI reigned in a period less fraught with cataclysmic danger than his immediate predecessor. The Cold War was past its nadir, most visible during the Cuban missile crisis. Détente was in vogue. Ostpolitik was being practised throughout the Western-bloc. In an age of international aviation travel, Paul VI was to take the Papacy to the world, making it more visible than it had hitherto been in its nineteen-hundred year history. In 1964 he signed, with Tunisia, the first agreement between the Holy See and a Muslim state. He was a leader and pioneer in all senses of the words.

The diplomatic corps of the Holy See, as envisioned by Paul VI when he was Under-Secretary of State, was not to function in order to secure a privileged position for the Church, but rather to work for the freedom required for the Church to operate in her true function, as a servant to mankind. Paul VI’s diplomacy was one of international travel along with one major encyclical Populorum Progressio which addressed the plight of the Third World people. 

IV.i At the United Nations

The heads of non-member states are not typically permitted to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in plenary; there has however been one exception — the Pope. Paul VI addressed this organisation on 4 October, 1965, a year after the Holy See had been appointed a permanent observer, as follows,

Many words are not needed to proclaim this loftiest aim of your institution. It suffices to remember that the blood of millions of men, that numberless and unheard of sufferings, useless slaughter and frightful ruin, are the sanction of the pact which unites you, with an oath which must change the future history of the world: No more war, war never again! Peace, it is peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.

The sincere fashion in which he delivered the dramatic speech, Duffy argues, made it a moving as well as an historic occasion. It greatly enhanced the standing of the Holy See as a moral leader, and the granting of the invitation to the Pope to address the General Assembly demonstrated the high esteem in which the Holy See was held by the states comprising the United Nations. The world recognised and valued the dispassionate and impartial input of the Holy See in its desire for global peace. The world’s nations had implicitly recognised and tacitly applauded the Holy See’s non-alignment.

IV.ii International Travel

Paul VI was the first Pope to travel outside of the Vatican City or Italy since Pius VII (1800 - 1823). He was the first pope to visit every populated continent, and the first since St Peter to visit the Holy Land. His visit to the United Nations Headquarters was also the first papal visit to the Western Hemisphere. After his trip to the Far East in 1970, he had in travelling 70,000 miles journeyed farther than all his predecessors combined. Paul VI, in the aggiornamento spirit of Vatican II, had embarked on a mission which revealed the Papacy in a less austere light. He recognised the importance to the Holy See in using all contemporary approaches to reach out to the entire human family, and not merely those residing in Italy and Europe. He saw himself as the universal pastor.

In 1964 Paul VI went to the Holy Land and India. In 1969 he became the first Pontiff to visit Africa. In 1970 he visited the Philippines and Australia. He travelled additionally to Latin America. His journeys enabled the Papacy to have a more direct input and play a larger role in the politics of the day. He urged conciliation and agreement where nations were in discord. Paul VI differed to his predecessors in that he was there in person to deliver his exhortations, thereby reducing the suspicion and secrecy that surrounded the Pope’s motives which abounded when he remained inside the walls of the Vatican. For Paul VI, the new age in travel gave the Holy See a greater scope to push for universal harmony. The Pope stated he was prepared to go anywhere if it would contribute to the quest for peace. Naturally a world-wide interest in the Pope arose as people viewed him not only in their homeland but on television too.


IV.iii Casaroli’s Ostpolitik

Cardinal Agostino Casaroli in 1979 became the Holy See’s Secretary of State, yet for many years before that he was the architect of the Holy See’s Ostpolitik. Dubbed by the West "the Henry Kissinger of the Vatican", he toiled diligently towards the continuing détente in Holy See-Soviet relations. In 1971 he surprised the world by appearing in Moscow to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on behalf of the Holy See, thereby reaffirming its interest in the nuclear question. It was the first treaty the Holy See had been a signatory to, since the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Cynics questioned Casaroli’s mission, and they spoke ironically of the Vatican City being an unknown nuclear threat. The Soviets were deeply distrustful about the purpose of the first official visit to the Soviet Union by a senior Vatican official. Again the mission of the Holy See had been grossly misunderstood. This was a moral issue and the Holy See desired to highlight the gravity of the issue by giving a lead and encouraging the world to follow its example.

In the 1960s however, Casaroli had given the Soviets cause for alarm by negotiating agreements with Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which allowed a greater degree of religious freedom in both countries. In 1965 he met the Soviet Union Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko. Paul VI encouraged further contacts between the Holy See and the governments of eastern Europe. In 1966 Yugoslavia and the Holy See signed the Belgrade Protocol, thereby exchanging non-diplomatic envoys. This had been instigated by President Tito who recognised both a fellow non-aligned body and the renewed universal outlook of the Church stemming from Vatican II. In 1971 President Tito made an official visit to the Pope who informed the Yugoslav President there should be no fear of encroachment or undue interference on her part in the field of the sovereign and legitimate competence of the states, since the Holy See’s desire to collaborate with the powers of this world was without ulterior temporal purposes. The Pope was keen to take every opportunity presented him to underline the permanent neutrality of the Holy See. Paradoxically, relations with Communist powers appeared to be improving at the very time they were deteriorating with some of the traditionally Catholic countries of Europe and Latin America.

IV.iv The Superpowers: Vietnam and the Helsinki Final Act

Throughout the Vietnam conflict Paul VI made numerous appeals for peace. He refused however to allow himself to become a pawn in a holy war between the Communist East and Capitalist West, and retained the neutrality of the Holy See throughout his entreaties. In 1966 Paul VI addressed a personally signed letter to Mao Tse-Tung, Chairman of the Chinese Community Party, requesting China’s intervention on behalf of the restoration of peace in Vietnam. Notwithstanding the on-going lack of recognition of the mainland Communist government, the Pope was prepared to go to any length in the hope that peace would be restored. In December 1967 President Johnson discussed the possibility of peace initiatives with the Pope at the Vatican. Paul VI did not, however, cower from condemning the American bombing of North Vietnam. In 1973 he met with the President of South Vietnam, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese representatives at the Paris Peace talks. The Pope pleaded throughout the conflict for relief for the suffering Vietnamese people and urged that peace talks should never cease.

The Final Act of the 1975 Council for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (CSCE), signed in Helsinki, allowed the Holy See the opportunity to be on a par with the two other world powers, namely the Soviet Union and America, and to advance its communion with the Communist states. The Holy See’s actions and proposals to establish freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief as human rights, constituted a crucial role in the Final Act. The Helsinki Final Act was primarily conceived to articulate in precise terms a definition of human rights, a right which the Church had first articulated in Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra.

IV.v The Third World

Populorum Progressio, an encyclical promulgated by Paul VI on 26 March 1967 quickly became a celebrated appeal for social justice throughout the world, yet it had particular resonance to those in the Third World. The Church sounded rather like the conscience of the developed world in its relationship with the undeveloped one. The Pope used the encyclical to denounce the inequitable distribution of wealth and power. He advocated that the superfluous wealth of the rich must be used to alleviate the misery of the poor and impoverished. To many it seemed that development had become the vogue term for peace. Paul VI stressed the legitimate right of the poorer nations to the richer nations’ aid. Focusing on the obstacles of neo-colonialism he understood the significance of an equitable distribution of the planet’s resources. He attacked the arms race as a scandalous waste of resources. The encyclical was a testament to the Holy See’s desire to shape the world in the pursuit of the Kingdom of God. It was viewed as an unambiguous denunciation of the North and a sweeping defence of the South, which gave a basis to his subsequent messages to several United Nations conferences in the 1970s, and in his World Day of Peace messages published each New Year’s Day. Paul VI’s critique of the superpowers’ behaviour was consistent throughout his pontificate. The Third World was happy in the knowledge that it had a steadfast ally in the Holy See. An Apologia for Holy See Diplomacy

In his New Year address to the ministers of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Paul VI chose to raise the question, "For the Church, whose essential role is a religious one, is recourse to diplomacy truly justified?" He answered in the affirmative.

In fact, the diplomatic activity of the Holy See responds, in a very appropriate manner, to the present developments of international life and to the present needs of the mission which the Church must fulfil in the contemporary world. The Roman Pontiffs are interested in civil society to foster respect for the basic principles of civil and international life, justice towards all, mutual accord and collaboration among peoples. The Holy See is actuated not by calculated and hidden selfish considerations for personnel advantage and power, but for the service of justice, peace and the international community.

Paul VI was merely echoing the prevailing universal sentiment of "the valuable part played by the Holy See in international affairs" — appreciation bestowed by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Michael Stewart, to the House of Commons on 21 February 1966.

IV.vii Paul VI and Non-Alignment

The diplomatic machinery of the Holy See was utilised by Paul VI as an instrument to present the claims of conscience and morality in a world pre-occupied with the prevailing power politics. Having defended the memory of Pius XII from accusations of the Holy See’s "silence" during World War Two, he was fervent throughout his pontificate in activities in support of peace and justice, perhaps in an aim to avoid future accusations against the Holy See. Paul VI’s numerous public appeals for peace — from Northern Ireland in 1969, to the 1971 conflict in India and Pakistan when he offered to mediate, and the 1977 offer to exchange himself for 86 hostages held on a Lufthansa aircraft at Mogadishu airport, Somalia — employed every facet of the Holy See’s diplomatic armoury at his disposal to end conflict, always vigilant that his stance was non-partisan and unprejudiced. In the year of his death he sent a personal message to the delegates of the special United Nations assembly on disarmament in which he declared,

The Holy See is not a world power, but if you ever think that the Holy See can help overcome the obstacles blocking the way to peace, it will not shelter behind the arguments of its non-temporal character, nor shy away from its responsibilities.

Upon Paul VI’s death tributes flowed from across the political divide. The Soviet Government newspaper, Izvestia, said that the Pope had repeatedly spoken out on disarmament and the necessity of strengthening world peace and reducing international tension, and he had also done much for the normalisation of relations with socialist countries. President Carter of America said that, "Pope Paul’s world travels exemplified his role of pilgrim carrying the message of peace and love to the far corners of the world." And Dr Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the "Pope had been a tireless voice for human conscience."

V. John Paul II

"If there exists no ultimate truth which guides and directs political action, then ideas and convictions can be easily exploited for the benefit of the powerful."

The elevation of a non-Italian to the Holy See broke with an all-Italian tradition lasting since Hadrian VI (1522 - 1523) and stunned the world. Tad Szulc was prophetic in confidently stating immediately after John Paul II’s election as Supreme Pontiff that it "constitutes a global political event of vast proportions." Certainly John Paul II has been an colossal statesman in his twenty-year pontificate, as confirmed by his frequent jousting in the international political arena amply documented in the media. Szulc continues,

By electing Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of Poland to the Papacy the Roman Catholic Church has thrust world politics into a wholly new dimension with extraordinary and far-reaching consequences that can be fully measured only with the passage of time.

Two decades later few would disagree with Szulc that John Paul II’s role, especially but not only in eastern Europe, has been a political event of vast proportions.

Pope John Paul II has striven to make the Holy See socially significant without politicising it. Maintaining this fine distinction is paramount to the Church if she is to preserve her moral authority. Pope John Paul II has won his political influence wholly due to his and the Church’s spiritual authority. His political influence has been "...broader than that of Nelson Mandela and stronger than that of President Reagan." It is precisely due to his spiritual authority that the Pope’s voice is heard around the world. Even his critics acknowledge that the Pope is the most consistent of the world’s leaders in his reasoning and arguing, for he answers only to God. This enables him to uphold the neutrality and non-alignment of the Holy See in all of his proclamations.

John Paul II has generated the most active Papacy in modern time. Under this Pope the Holy See has launched an unprecedented build-up of its diplomatic machine. In addition to having diplomatic representation with over 160 nations, double that of 25 years ago, compared to 37 at the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See has greatly expanded its delegations to international institutes and fora, giving it a bigger voice on issues ranging from birth control and land-mines to Third World debt and environmental controls. The Holy See’s diplomatic work has drawn greatly on the twelve encyclicals written thus far by Pope John Paul II.

No statesman in history can claim to have travelled so regularly — he has made 83 international pastoral visits outside Italy — and spoken to many audiences around the globe; and it is his remarkable belief in the world and mankind that has brought him this audience. As a prolific traveller of the world the Pope has acquired for the Papacy an unprecedented public role and celebrity status. Papal journeys are international media events, as illustrated by his January 1998 pilgrimage to Cuba, which the media followed so closely.

Momentous political events have occurred during John Paul II’s pontificate, in particular the Holy See’s role will be examined: in the twilight of Soviet Communism; in pronouncements on Soviet and American superpower status; in proclaiming human rights for all mankind; at the Cairo Conference where the Holy See attracted substantial media attention; and in recent Papal visits to Cuba and Nigeria which captivated a universal audience.

V.i The Fall of Soviet Communism

When Mikhail Gorbachev went to the Vatican to meet the Pope on 1 December, 1989, the Washington Post remarked, "Of all the meetings with world leaders that Gorbachev has had since he became Communist Party general secretary in 1985, today’s was probably the most extraordinary." As the Cold War was thawing, this meeting, even more so than the following day’s Malta conference where the two superpower heads met, was evidence that the clash of Communism and Christianity was subsiding.

The election of a Second World Pontiff in 1978 is widely thought to have caused consternation in the Kremlin. Within a year of his election the Kremlin’s fears were confirmed; during John Paul II’s first visit to his Polish motherland he addressed a third of his countrymen at meetings across the country. He pressed for democratic reform and his words carried greater weight throughout the world due to his first-hand experience of the Communist regime. Jerzy Urban, a Polish government spokesman, conceded in the aftermath of the Papal visit,

All the people’s grievances against the power of the state were channelled into the Church and the election of a Pole as Pope strengthened this religious propensity even further; when he came to Poland, I knew that this meant the end of a political epoch.

The Pope used his encyclicals to denounce Communism in more vehement terms than any of his predecessors since Pius XII. In his 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens John Paul II explained how the conflict between labour and capital is not a class struggle as Marx would say, but rather the exploitation of labour. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus argued that socialism subordinated the good of the individual to that of society and therefore eliminated the "concept of the person as an autonomous subject of moral decision." The Pope reasoned that because the conflict is moral, not exclusively ideological or political, one can reject the concept of an inevitable and perhaps violent class struggle.

With the Catholic Church in Poland growing in confidence, encouragement was given to the other Soviet-satellite countries of eastern Europe. The Soviets became increasingly uncomfortable at this influence, which attacked the very heart of Communist doctrine. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on 13 May 1981 in St Peter’s Square is widely believed to have been ordered by Moscow, and the evidence leads to the Bulgarian secret service commissioning the Turk — convicted as the lone gunman — Mehmet Ali Agca, for the hit.

John Paul II acted, as well as spoke, in a spirit of confrontation with the Soviet Union, especially in the Third World. In states which were avowedly Marxist-Leninist, he appointed Cardinals that had never before been accorded such positions; Angola in 1983 and both Ethiopia and Nicaragua in 1985 were deemed worthy and important enough to command Cardinals. The Pope was using the Holy See’s diplomatic arsenal in ways hitherto unknown.

While in public the Pope was anti-Communist in his statements and deeds, in private the Secretary of State Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, an accomplished diplomat through his time spent in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, was working with patience to undermine the Communist regime. In characteristic Holy See fashion though, Casaroli gave the Americans the credit for ending the Cold War, saying "Ronald Reagan obligated the Soviet Union to increase its military spending to the limits of insupportability." Other commentators credit John Paul II as sharing with President Reagan "the liquidation of Soviet power in Russia and eastern Europe." Indeed some even suggest that the collapse of Communism should more accurately be seen as a victory for the Holy See’s new political strategy, which had of course John Paul II as its catalyst. Due to its presence at international fora where the Holy See pressed vocally for democratic reform as part of its moral agenda, reluctant Communist governments conformed to human rights pledges — the 1975 CSCE Helsinki Final Act epitomises the Holy See’s activity in this field. The 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus celebrated the breakdown of Communist regimes in eastern Europe, and John Paul II went on to argue against the totalitarian state on the grounds of its denial of transcendent human dignity. In December 1991 the Holy See established diplomatic relations with Russia, and with most other former Soviet republics during 1992.

V.ii Critique of The Superpowers

John Paul II was always conscious that his condemnations of Communism should not be understood as an endorsement of unbridled capitalism. This was evident from the beginning of his pontificate, as his profound suspicion of Western capitalism was demonstrated in his second encyclical Dives in Misericordia, promulgated in 1980,

It is obvious that a fundamental defect, or rather a series of defects, indeed a defective machinery is at the root of contemporary economics and materialistic civilisation, which does not allow the human family to break free from such radically unjust situations.

Though not sharing all the Cold War world’s prevailing beliefs of the stark choice between Communism or global capitalism, he argued that both were harmful to the human spirit for different reasons. Capitalism glorified wealth and ignored the notion of a just society; Communism focused on a just society at the expense of human liberty. His 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis raised an outcry in the West, particularly in America, for implying a moral equivalence between the ideologies of Communism and capitalism. John Paul II blamed both of the blocs, Eastern and Western, "as an important cause of the retardation or stagnation of the South." From the Pope’s perspective both blocs were culpable in causing international problems and he called for a relinquishing of superpower control of world affairs:

Each of the two blocs harbours in its own way a tendency toward imperialism, as it is usually called, or towards forms of neo-colonialism: an easy temptation to which they frequently succumb as history, including recent history teaches.

To John Paul II the West is spiritually decadent with its focus on unbridled capitalism which is, he argues, indifferent in its concern for the weak and downtrodden. While American presidents hailed Papal pilgrimages to Communist countries, they were troubled by Papal pronouncements on both Marxist priests in Latin America and the lack of democracy in the Philippines — areas in which the Americans exhibited considerable influence. In 1981 both John Paul II and American Vice-President George Bush visited the Philippines: John Paul II challenged President Marcos to improve his treatment of the people; while George Bush proclaimed eagerly, "We love your adherence to democratic principles and democratic processes."

The Pope did however recognise the legitimacy of financial profit in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. "The free market is the most efficient instrument for utilising resources and effectively responding to those in need." The Pope did not however give carte blanche to capitalism, yet he asserted the Church valued the desirability of the democratic system, but only insofar as it recognised and implemented appropriate human values.

In international affairs the Holy See maintained positions at variance to America throughout the Cold War on issues which included arms control, Third World debt relief, Central America and Israel. The Holy See did however restore full diplomatic relations with America on 10 January 1984 after a hiatus of 117 years, and established them with Israel on 30 December 1993, 45 years after its birth. The following year the Holy See extended full diplomatic relations to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Jordan too.

V.iii Human Rights and The United Nations

"I hope that the United Nations will ever remain the supreme forum of peace and justice, the authentic seat of freedom of peoples and individuals in their longing for a better future."

The Holy See has been a consistent advocate of the United Nations since its inception. The Pope emphasised during his two speeches to the United Nations General Assembly the Holy See’s endorsement of all the values that the United Nations strives to uphold. In 1979 he recalled the opening words of the Charter of the United Nations in which the member nations reaffirmed their, "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small." And he went on to state,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been placed as the basic inspiration and cornerstone of the United Nations organisation,...must remain the basic value in the United Nations with which the consciences of its members must be confronted and from which they must draw continual inspiration. This document [the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] is a milestone on the long and difficult path of the human race.

He further endorsed the Holy See’s strong support for the United Nations during his World Peace Day message on 1 January, 1986 to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See.

The Pope’s two speeches to the United Nations have included direct references to war, the arms race, and the developing nations, whose human dignity is infringed upon due to the lack of aid and debt relief. The Pope argues that aid and debt relief may be more forthcoming if the rich nations did not squander resources on arms proliferation. John Paul II’s abiding interest in international affairs has led him to question the whole international system in the belief that order and liberty will inevitably prevail: "We shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit." Cognisant that he has the world’s attention when speaking from the platform of the United Nations, he has focused the thrust of his moral teaching on those two themes, namely order and liberty. And the ultimate test for international relations and the United Nations is that of a man’s human rights.

V.iv The Cairo Conference

The third decennial United Nations-sponsored conference, convened to address population matters, met in Cairo from 5-13 September 1994 under the banner ‘International Conference on Population and Development’ (ICPD). Its explicit purpose was to formulate a consensus position on population and development for the next 20 years. Once the draft document, Programme of Action, was issued, John Paul II instigated perhaps the biggest consorted diplomatic effort ever launched by the Holy See.

The Programme of Action, inspired principally by the American government and the feminist movement, constituted a direct attack on numerous tenets of Catholic social teaching. The term ‘marriage’ was conspicuously absent, replaced with vague terms such as ‘couples’ thereby implicitly recognising same sex unions as comparable to that of marriage. Pope John Paul II was greatly disturbed, as he wanted to prevent the collapse of marriage in the Third World that had occurred in the West. The Holy See and America clashed over abortion and sterilisation, as it became apparent that America was promoting "biological colonialism" through "abortion on demand". Consequently, the Pope set out to win support from all countries of the world, regardless of their religious background. Allies were found in the unlikeliest of areas. As the Cairo Conference loomed, the Islamic world joined the Holy See in its rejection of the draft document; and Italy stated it would not sanction abortion as a form of birth control. The Pope met with the Conference’s Secretary General Dr Nafis Sadik at the Vatican in April 1994 and he reminded her that " never an acceptable method of family planning, as was recognised by consensus at the Mexico City United Nations International Conference on Population." The Pope wrote to each and every head of state across the globe highlighting the individualistic lifestyle promoted by the Programme of Action. John Paul II requested that all the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See meet him at the Vatican in order that he could reiterate the Church’s teachings on the family.

"The positions of some of the delegates going to Cairo, coming from different countries, different backgrounds, and certainly not from a Catholic and even a Christian background, are now closer to the position of the Holy See," declared Holy See spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls.

During the Conference itself, the Holy See was at its most vocal, thereby gaining much media attention. It lobbied hard to the extent that critics accused the Holy See of monopolising the agenda. As the American government softened its position on abortion, due to concerns over the alienation of the key bloc of Catholic voters, the final document’s statement regarding abortion on demand was toned down. The Holy See had achieved a qualified diplomatic achievement though an unlikely pro-life association with the Islamic world. Although much criticism was directed at the Holy See’s tactics through the ICPD build-up and during the Conference itself, the accusations were not suggesting a breach of the Holy See’s own Article 24, on neutrality. Moreover critics questioned the juridical status of the Holy See having a seat at the ICPD. Consequently, these same critics maintain, the Holy See kept a lower profile and broke with tradition by sending a woman to lead its delegation at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing.

With the demise of the Marxist alternative to capitalism, the Catholic Church through the Holy See, as demonstrated at Cairo, has become the only significant international force capable of challenging, morally if not physically, the will and might of the one surviving superpower, America.

V.v Cuba and Nigeria

Speculating whether the Pope could once again be the catalyst for the downfall of a Communist dictator, media analysts prepared in great anticipation for John Paul II’s pastoral visit to Cuba in January 1998. America had maintained an economic embargo on Cuba as the island remained one of the last outposts of Soviet-Communism. Fidel Castro in 1996 voiced his glee at what a Papal visit would mean to the Cuban people,

We feel honoured by any interest the Pope may have in visiting our country. I would also consider it courageous action, because don’t think that all heads of state or all politicians dare visit Cuba; they have to take the opinion of the US into account and many of them do.

Le Monde hailed John Paul II for defying the American embargo on Cuba, adding how it had failed to isolate Fidel Castro. Yet for the Pope, his agenda was undeviating: to press Castro the dictator to allow greater human rights for the Cuban people; to highlight the plight of the Cuban civilians in the light of the on-going American blockade; and to save Cuba from a violent transition after Castro’s inevitable demise.

John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Nigeria in March 1998 gave him an opportunity to berate the corrupt and repressive military Government of General Sani Abacha. The Pope pressed for the release of political prisoners and for greater political liberty, in addition to his ubiquitous call for human rights to be observed: "You are called to muster your wisdom and expertise in the difficult and urgent task of building a society that respects all and their dignity." Shortly after the Papal visit Abacha died, and Nigeria seems to be in the throes of a return to democracy. John Paul II and Non-Alignment

John Paul II has been a diplomatic voice, and an influence of great significance in the contemporary world. The recent Cuba pilgrimage is a clear example that he leads the Holy See in its diplomatic relations with no hidden agenda, and is influenced by no temporal leaders. His faith leads him at times to act as a solitary actor on the world stage: he was the first world leader to visit East Timor, in October 1989, after its occupation by Indonesia 15 years earlier; the Holy See was the only ‘state’ to recognise the Haiti military junta in the aftermath of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s overthrow; and the Holy See is the only European ‘state’ to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. His critics are many, yet they do not claim he is less than consistent and fair regarding the permanent neutrality of the Holy See. He is popular for speaking out against human rights abuses, such as in Cuba and Nigeria on 1998 pastoral visits. John Paul II has embarrassed many a world leader as he voices the grievances of the voiceless, especially those of the developing countries, often when sharing the same stage as them. The Pope’s criticism of the superpowers has been unrelenting where he sees their behaviour in discordance with Christianity.

The Holy See became the mediator in the Beagle Channel dispute, which started in 1978, between Argentina and Chile at the behest of the two nations. The Holy See’s mediation, which began in 1979, led to a peaceful settlement in 1985 of the territorial dispute that had taken two Catholic countries to the brink of war. The diplomatic manoeuvrings concerning the Pope’s 1982 visit to the United Kingdom epitomize the gravity with which the Holy See views Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty. Protestant United Kingdom was at war with Catholic Argentina over the Falkland Islands, and questions were raised of the symbolism behind a Papal visit to one of the warring parties. In order to avoid any suspicion of favouritism, formal meetings with the British Prime Minister and the Head of State were cancelled, and the Holy See announced the Pope would shortly be visiting Argentina too, in a hastily organised tour. Earlier in the year the United Kingdom and the Holy See had resolved an historic breach, lasting since Henry VIII broke with the Church in 1532, and established full diplomatic relations.

Pope John Paul II has toiled throughout his pontificate to maintain the position he outlined during his first message to the world, the day after his election as Pope,

We desire to make an effective contribution to the cause of permanent and prevailing peace of development, and of international justice. We have no intention of political interference, nor of participation in the working out of temporal affairs.

The Pope however, has attracted numerous critics during his pontificate, having: struck up temporary alliances with Muslim countries at the Cairo Conference; established diplomatic relations with Israel; offended the Americans in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis; these critics remain silent though on the issue of any perceived alignment of the Holy See.

VI. Conclusion

Congress will probably never send a Minister to His Holiness who can do them no service, upon condition of receiving a Catholic legate or nuncio; or in other words, an ecclesiastical tyrant which, it is to be hoped, the United States will be too wise ever to admit into their territories.

John Adams to the Continental Congress, 1779.

The Pope! How many divisions has he got?

Joseph Stalin, 1935.

The purpose of this dissertation has been to explore the issue of Holy See diplomacy, and to examine whether or not the Holy See has upheld Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty. This dissertation, in other words, has sought to investigate whether the Holy See has remained neutral and non-aligned, impartial and independent, in its mission. In particular this dissertation has sought to elucidate the critics of the Holy See’s stance in the significant diplomatic events since World War Two which are of a direct consequence to the Holy See. In order to refute their allegations this dissertation has endeavoured to demonstrate why the Holy See has adopted its preferred diplomatic positions.

Throughout time the mission of the Pope, the Holy See and the Catholic Church has been much misunderstood. This mission as understood by the Church is a lofty and noble one inspired by God. Hence the difficulty for non-believers, and often for believers too, of grasping in a political sense the true origins of the Holy See’s mission. When critics view its mission through entirely earthly lenses, they cannot help but fail to understand the Holy See’s logic and reasoning, "for the Holy See reckons in centuries and plan for eternity."

The historical link between the Pope and the Western Emperor created Christendom, and as the West is predominantly Christian in its culture and history, it is clear to see how critics identify the Church, especially during the reign of Pius XII — whence most political criticism of the Holy See stems — as favouring the Western bloc. The Western democratic system encouraged transnational actors such as the Catholic Church, and therefore she had the freedom necessary to operate according to her own will and divine mission. Conversely, the eastern bloc under atheistic Communism never allowed the Church the freedom she required, and consequently Holy See criticism of the Soviets was more pronounced.

The Holy See has demonstrated that it will only attend international conferences where issues of ethics and morality are to be discussed. The Holy See is disinterested in congresses which are purely political in nature, and does not therefore send a representative. Clearly the ICPD at Cairo concerned issues coinciding with the Holy See’s scope of interests, therefore its presence was wholly licit under Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty.

The obligation of teaching the Gospels is primary to the Church and the Holy See. Consequently the usual tool of the diplomat, namely compromise, is unavailable to the Holy See diplomat, for the Gospels themselves are uncompromising in their demands. Yet the Holy See diplomat is called by God, through his priestly vocation, to be a peace-maker too; it is manifestly difficult to be both pastor and diplomat. The Church has out-lasted all human institutions, making numerous and powerful enemies along the way, yet still she survives. The Church teaches that she is guided by the Holy Spirit to teach the truth, and this allows her to develop her thinking. Many aspects of the Church have evolved since World War Two, yet adhering to her beliefs, the analysis and evidence supports the hypothesis that the Holy See has indeed remained in a state of non-alignment since the war, and has not therefore violated Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty. The Pontifex Maximus continues to uphold the tradition of the Supreme Bridge-builder.

VII. Glossary

Ad Sinarum Gentem Encyclical by Pius XII, 7 October 1954, To the Chinese People on the Supranationality of the Church.

Apostolic Exhortation an official Church appeal, slightly less solemn than an Apostolic Letter.

Apostolic Letter an official Church document issued by the Pope, usually shorter in length than an Encyclical and slightly less solemn.

Archbishop the senior bishop of a region.

Canon Law a formal item of Church law.

Cardinal a member of the College of Cardinals. Cardinals hold the highest rank next to the Pope, who is chosen from their number, and they take precedence of bishops, archbishops and patriarchs.

Centesimus Annus Encyclical by John Paul II, 1 May 1991, On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labour).

College of Cardinals (also called the Sacred College) the body of the Cardinals of the Church, founded in the eleventh century and since 1179 responsible for the election of the Pope. It also takes on government of the Church during vacancies in the Papacy.

Datis Nuperrime Encyclical by Pius XII, 5 November 1956, Condemning the Ruthless Use of Force in Hungary.

Divine Law established by God. It comprises natural divine law, which flows from what is just according to natural values, and positive divine law, which emanates from the institutions of the Holy See.

Divini Redemptoris Encyclical by Pius XI, 19 March 1937, On Atheistic Communism.

Dives in Misericordia Encyclical by John Paul II, 30 November 1980, On the Mercy of God.

Ecumenical Council a solemn assembly of bishops to determine matters of doctrine or discipline for the Church.

Encyclical a solemn letter addressed by the Pope to the bishops, the clergy, the whole Christian people or, more recently, to ‘all people of goodwill’. Encyclicals came into use under Benedict XIV (1740 - 1758), and have become the favoured form of Papal teaching since the early nineteenth century. Individual encyclicals are known by the first two or three words of their opening paragraph — normally in Latin.

Evangelii Nuntiandi Apostolic Exhortation by Paul VI, 8 December 1975, On Evangelization in the Modern World.

Gaudium et Spes Document of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 7 December 1965, Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World.

Humanae Vitae Encyclical by Paul VI, 25 July 1968, On the Regulation of Births.

In Multiplicibus Curis Encyclical by Pius XII, 24 October 1948, On Prayers for Peace in Palestine.

Laborem Exercens Encyclical by John Paul II, 14 September 1981, On Human Work (On the Ninetieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum).

Laetamur Admodum Encyclical by Pius XII, 1 November 1956, On Prayers for Peace for Poland, Hungary and the Middle East.

Luctuosissimi Eventus Encyclical by Pius XII, 28 October 1956, On Prayers for the People of Hungary.

Mater et Magistra Encyclical by John XXIII, 15 May 1961, On Christianity and Social Progress.

Nunciature a Papal Embassy.

Nuncio a permanent diplomatic representative of the Pope to a sovereign state, equivalent in rank to that of an Ambassador.

L’Osservatore Romano a Vatican-inspired yet unofficial Rome daily publication. Since 4 April, 1968 there has been a weekly English language edition; weekly additions appear in various other languages too.

Pacem in Terris Encyclical by John XXIII, 11 April 1963, On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth.

Papal States the areas of present-day Italy and France which acknowledged the Pope as sovereign. Also known as the Patrimony of St Peter, or the States of the Church. Derived originally from the gifts of Constantine, the Roman imperial family and aristocratic converts to Christianity, they were formally recognised by Pepin and Charlemagne, who undertook to protect them on behalf of St Peter.

Populorum Progressio Encyclical by Paul VI, 26 March 1967, On Social Concern and the Development of the Third World Peoples.

Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus Encyclical by Pius XII, 15 April 1949, On the Holy Places in Palestine.

Rerum Novarum Encyclical by Leo XIII, 15 May 1891, On the Condition of Labour.

Roman Curia Latin for ‘court’: the Papal court and central administration of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis Encyclical by John Paul II, 30 December 1987, On the Twentieth Anniversary of Populorum Progressio (On Social Concern....).

Summi Pontificatus Encyclical by Pius XII, 20 October 1939, On the Unity of Human Society.

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) 1962-65 Primarily directed to the renewal of the inner life of the Church, but it was also a catalyst for redefining the Church’s relationship to the world.

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CARDINAL REFLECTS ON 50 YEARS OF VATICAN DIPLOMACY (CWN) — In a new videotape released in Rome today, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the powerful cardinal who served for years as the Vatican Secretary of State, offers his reflections on a career that spanned fifty years of diplomacy. Highlights of the video include the cardinal's accounts of the Vatican's relations with the Soviet Union, and the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II. 19.X.96.
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