Cardinal Pietro Parolin, 69, the Vatican Secretary of State. As such, Parolin heads up the Vatican’s diplomacy and is currently working to keep open all contacts in the hope of a negotiated settlement for peace in the Holy Land. Parolin’s efforts have drawn the attention of many Vatican watchers, and some — in particular J.D. Flynn, an American who directs The Pillar news agency, whose article “Could Parolin be pope?” published earlier today is excerpted below (link), who reports that Parolin recently made a strong plea at the Synod in favor of the Church remaining faithful to traditional Catholic doctrine — are now suggesting that Parolin could in fact be… a strong candidate to become the next Pope…

    The Holy See is looking for contacts; let’s not lose hope.—Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, in remarks yesterday to the Italian news agency ANSA regarding the tragic and very tense situation on the Holy Land (link)

    According to sources close to the assembly [the Synod on Synodality now meeting in Rome], Parolin made a ‘strong and clear’ intervention during the synod meeting — which is not open to the public — urging that participants emphasize fidelity to divine revelation, as interpreted by the Church’s magisterium, in the course of their conversations.” —JD Flynn, in an article published last night on The Pillar (text below) (link). Note: Flynn asserts that this was said by Parolin in the Synod session, but the Synod sessions are closed and so it has not been otherwise officially confirmed that Parolin actually said these words…. We will try to confirm this in coming days…


    Letter #142, 2023, Tuesday, October 17: Cardinal Parolin

    As the tragic violence in the Holy Land continues to take many lives, the Pope’s right-hand man, the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, 69, is seeking to keep lines of contact open so that the Vatican may help to bring peace.

    For his part, Pope Francis yesterday called for renewed prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace, and designated October 27 as a world day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Holy Land. (link)

    As this occurs, some onlookers are seeing in Parolin, who has been Secretary of State throughout most of the pontificate of Pope Francis, a possible successor to Francis. Here below is an article from The Pillar which sets forth some of the reasons for this new attention on the Italian cardinal as a possible future Pope, and includes the revelation of Parolin’s (alleged) remarks to the present Synod in support of preserving intact traditional Catholic doctrine—RM


    First, a piece from the Italian news agency Ansa (link)

    Parolin, “The Holy See is looking for contacts; let’s not lose hope”

    “We must have hope that such a tragic moment can be overcome”

    ANSA Italian news agency

    VATICAN CITY, October 18, 2023, 9.54pm

    By the ANSA editorial team

    “We are looking for contacts, on both sides,” said Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, speaking of the diplomatic action by the Holy See for the conflict in the Middle East.

    The cardinal specified that he was referring to the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    “As Saint Paul said, it is necessary ‘spes contra spem‘ hope against hope”], we must hope when there is no longer hope. When there are reasons to hope it is easy, not like in this case, but we must have hope that we can overcome this tragic moment,” he told ANSA (…) “I reiterate our strong condemnation of the terrible attacks and hostage-taking by Hamas. Our thoughts and prayers are with the hostages and their families and I join the Pope in calling for their immediate release,” he said during the inauguration of the office of a World Jewish Center (for the World Jewish Congress) in via della Conciliazione. “Acts of violence and terrorism do nothing to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, they only bring great suffering to innocents.”

    Speaking about the event with the international Jewish community, Parolin spoke of an “important evening for dialogue between Christians and Jews” which “shows the bond which unites us as children of the same God.”


    Second, a piece from the Italian magazine Domani (“Tomorrow”) (link):

    War in Israel, Parolin returns to the center of Vatican diplomacy (link)

    (by Francesco Peloso, Domani) — While the crisis in the Middle East flares up after the massacre at the Anglican hospital of al-Ahli in Gaza, the Holy See tries not to lose its compass by following a double path: that of prayer for peace and of the appeals to the international community addressed by the Pope, and the diplomatic one entrusted to Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Who repeated an almost forgotten concept in these days of war: that is, that the basis for the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must pass through the “two peoples, two states” formula and that we must start again from there if we want to build peace between the two peoples.

    World War

    On the other hand, this time the Vatican cannot be wrong: at stake is the future of the Holy Land where the Christian communities have been profoundly affected by the flight of many families due to conflicts, religious extremism, poverty and lack of prospects for younger people. And then the new conflict seems to prefigure the scenario evoked several times in recent years by Pope Francis of a third world war fought piecemeal. That is, on various fronts that could, sooner or later, come together. In a similar context, the Vatican Secretary of State Parolin has taken back the stage and now seems to lead the Vatican diplomacy which was partially confused after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

    This time, in any case, the Vatican’s position does not lend itself to misunderstanding. At the end of yesterday’s general audience, Francis appealed to the international community to “do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza where, he said, “the situation is desperate”.

    Then he added a dramatic reminder to believers: “Let the weapons be silent! Let the cry of peace of the people, of the people, of the children be heard! Brothers and sisters, war does not solve any problem, it only sows death and destruction, increases hatred and multiplies revenge. War erases the future. I exhort believers to take only one side in this conflict: that of peace; but not in words, with prayer, with total dedication.”

    For next October 27, the Pope has announced a day of prayer and fasting for peace.

    Dialogue between the parties

    Parolin, to explain the position of the Church of Rome in the crisis that the Middle East is experiencing, was also interviewed by Nunzia De Girolamo, in the program Avanti Popolo, on Rai 3.

    On the occasion he reiterated the condemnation “total” of the attack carried out by Hamas against Israel.

    “The Holy See has always had a very precise line,” Parolin said when speaking of the conflict. “Peace in the Holy Land can only come from the recognition of the rights of both peoples. For us this has always meant supporting the formula of two states living according to internationally recognized borders, in peace and in good relations. This peace and this solution can only be achieved through direct dialogue between the two parties, supported, supported and encouraged by the international community.”

    A position that denies legitimacy both to those who, like Hamas, want to transform the Palestinian cause into a sort of Armageddon to destroy Israel, and to those who, in the Netanyahu government, have promoted racist and xenophobic policies against the Palestinians in recent years. Parolin also listed what the Holy See’s priorities are in the new war: “I believe that first of all we need to limit the damage. The hostage problem is a fundamental point to resolve, and international mediation should help to dismantle and reduce the tension somewhat. It’s difficult at the moment, I don’t know if there are negotiations underway to take them out… “Another point to underline,” he said, “is to recognize Israel’s right to self-defense, but it must meet ethical criteria, for example, it must absolutely avoid the death of innocent people. International humanitarian law must be respected. This is what the Holy Father asked, and this is what the UN also asked.”


    Third, a piece by J.D. Flynn entitled “Could Parolin be pope?” published at 9 pm last night by The Pillar (link)

    Could Parolin be pope?

    By JD Flynn

    October 18, 2023

    As the synod on synodality proceeds at the Vatican, bishops and lay participants have reportedly weighed in on a variety of ways by which the synod might propose changes to Catholic doctrine, or that elements of Catholic teaching be at least reexamined and deemphasized, in response to the pope’s call to see the Church become more “synodal” — and more welcoming to Catholics disaffected from the Church.

    But while reports pile up of participants with views at odds with Catholic teaching, sources have told The Pillar that one voice in the synod has been a loud advocate for a vision of synodality that places Catholic doctrine at its center: Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

    Given his ordinary reputation for diplomatic reserve, the notion that Parolin has been outspoken at the synod might come as a surprise. And it comes at an unusual time for the cardinal — as Parolin seems both privately and publicly to be moving from Pope Francis’ inner circle.

    Whatever his intervention might mean for the synod, the more interesting question might be about another Vatican assembly — what could an outspoken Pietro Parolin mean for the next papal conclave?


    As the Francis papacy moves past its ten-year mark, Vatican-watchers have begun to discuss in earnest how the election of the pope’s successor might play out. More quietly, cardinals and bishops have begun to have the same kinds of conversations.

    There is an emerging school of thought that after three “foreign” popes, the College of Cardinals might be eager to elect an Italian to the position again, for the stability in office that would seem to imply.

    Further, the Italian block of cardinals might have outsize influence in the next conclave, because the Italians know each other, while a large number of the College of Cardinals, those appointed from far-flung corners of the globe, have had few opportunities to come together, let alone to form opinions of each other.

    Among the Italians, the three most obvious choices are Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the cardinal vicar of Rome; Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna, and Parolin, who has been Francis’ Secretary of State since 2014.

    It’s not clear that there is a front-runner.

    De Donatis has been plagued in recent months by the public backlash against his defense of disgraced Jesuit Marko Rupnik.

    Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, has been given charge of Francis’ signature diplomatic project, the pope’s efforts to secure a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia. But at the same time, the cardinal has been frequently criticized for a perceived doctrinal “flexibility” that makes it hard to know where he stands.

    Meanwhile, while Parolin remains the second-most influential officeholder in the Church — at least on paper — it seems clear that his stock with Pope Francis has fallen in recent years.

    In late 2020, the Secretariat of State was stripped of its assets and investment portfolio, together worth billions of euros, in light of the charges of criminal financial misconduct in the secretariat.

    More recently, Parolin’s diplomatic staff were “frozen out” of the drafting process of this month’s papal exhortation, Laudate deum, despite their work with international leaders on the subject of climate change.

    At the same time, Pope Francis tapped another figure — Zuppi— to lead his efforts to aid in a Ukrainian-Russian peace process. It is remarkable to diplomacy watchers that the pontiff would task someone other than his secretary of state with the Church’s highest-profile diplomatic effort.

    Since the pope made that appointment, according to diplomatic sources, some Vatican ambassadors have begun to regard Zuppi as the kind-of de facto secretary of state, a rival to the influence and position of Parolin.

    But if Parolin is seen as increasingly out-of-favor with Francis, that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that a cadre of cardinals won’t favor him in the next conclave — or that Zuppi’s popularity with the pope will necessarily translate into support.

    On that front, Parolin’s reported intervention at the synod could work in his favor.

    [Note: Here follows the reported statement by Parolin to the Synod.—RM]

    According to sources close to the assembly, Parolin made a “strong and clear” intervention during the synod meeting — which is not open to the public — urging that participants emphasize fidelity to divine revelation, as interpreted by the Church’s magisterium, in the course of their conversations.

    The cardinal’s remarks left an impression on members of the assembly, sources told The Pillar.

    To some Vatican-watchers, that might come as a surprise.

    Parolin is more well-known these days for diplomatic remarks, even controversial ones, than for theological excursus. But that reputation comes with the kind of ecclesiastical career he’s had.

    Since his 1980 ordination to the priesthood, Parolin has been a career Vatican diplomat — in Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, and in the halls of the Secretariat of State, Parolin’s agenda has been the pope’s agenda, over the course of three successive pontificates. Little is known publicly about the cardinal’s own theological commitments or perspectives — Parolin has never even been a pastor, with a record of parish bulletin notices or homilies to perhaps give insight into how he thinks about the Church.

    With a strong showing at the synod — especially for the stability of doctrinal orthodoxy — Parolin might show to a group of cardinals that he has a number of favorable attributes for a pope: He knows how the Vatican works, he has experience with the Church around the globe, and — given his intervention — he apparently has no desire to see prolonged debate over settled doctrinal issues.

    Taken together, it is possible that Parolin might be seen by some cardinals as an excellent follow-up to the Francis papacy.

    Of course, Parolin has a lot to overcome.

    When it comes to weighing up what cardinals look for in a prospective pope, Parolin could be argued to face a double handicap. .

    At 69 years old, he might be younger than some conclave voters might like, if they are looking for a short “reset” pontificate to follow the lengthy and often controversial reign of Francis.

    On the other hand, Parolin is also a cancer survivor who has faced lingering questions about his health, even as he gets on with one of the most demanding jobs in the Church, short of actually being pope — those looking for a steady, longer-term candidate might worry that he’d be coming to the job already tired out.

    There are questions about his day job, too. Senior officials from his secretariat are facing trial right now for serious financial corruption, and several have alleged that Parolin was either aware of their activity, or negligent in his oversight.

    Further, his detractors say, Parolin has been a key player in a much-criticized agreement with Beijing, and that the cardinal has embraced a realpolitik strategy that puts pragmatics over Providence. But friends of the cardinal say consistently that Parolin is a “man of the Church” — doctrinally orthodox, pastorally astute, and eager for evangelization.

    Both, of course, can be true. And it is unclear how much of the Beijing deal is Parolin’s own doing, and how much is driven by a desire of Pope Francis to see regularized the situation of the Church in China.

    In either case, Parolin has not been shy in recent months about the limitations of the deal, and of the way it’s been interpreted in Beijing.

    And whatever the cardinal’s role in the Vatican financial scandal actually is, it is possible that cardinal-electors will overlook it, or fail to understand it even, because of the complexity of the case, and the way it’s been prosecuted.

    So could Parolin become pope?

    It seems increasingly likely.

    Does he want to be pope?

    No one who does would ever admit it.

    Would he be what cardinal electors expect?

    That’s hard to say. A Vatican secretary of state has not been elected pope since Pius XII in 1939. It remains to be seen whether a future conclave will think the time has come for another.

    [End, piece by JD Flynn of The Pillar]  

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