The cross : Lwill the pope come to France?
Cardinal Pietro Parolin: I do not know. There is a project. The Pope has already expressed his interest in Emmanuel Macron. But I am not able to give a date. I hope this can be done as soon as possible, because France deserves a visit from the Holy Father.
For a hundred years, France has been a partner of the Holy See on a diplomatic level. What is your current state of affairs of relations between France and the Vatican?
Card. PP: Relations between France and the Holy See are positive. Contacts at different levels are very frequent, both here in Rome, with the French Embassy to the Holy See, and with the French authorities. In Paris, the Matignon body, which regularly brings together government and episcopate officials, is a place for constructive discussions.
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We share common concerns, such as ecology, which has become a central theme of the international activity of the Holy See, as well as the management of the pandemic. But we also have some differences, such as the issue of disarmament or nuclear power.
The National Assembly will continue examining the law on separatism in a few days. How do you understand French secularism?
Card. PP: It is a very sensitive subject in France. French secularism has characteristics that cannot be found anywhere else, linked to your history, and in particular to the French Revolution, but also to the various stages which led to the separation of Churches and State, and sometimes to a strong rejection of religion.
All these episodes have left traces and contributed to marginalizing the religious dimension in social life. It’s not good. The ideal is always to have both autonomy for the political community from the Church and healthy collaboration between them. The common goal of Church and State is to contribute to the common good.
As the presidential campaign approaches, French society is crossed by a number of identity tensions. Are you worried about this?
Card. PP: In a certain sense, tensions are necessary because they allow to move forward. It is normal that with the approach of an electoral campaign, certain tensions increase. France is capable of supporting this, because it has a very strong democratic tradition. What matters is that these tensions do not turn into violent conflicts, into personal attacks that would contribute to a destructive climate.
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The bioethics law has just been adopted in France, and some Catholics, who are opposed to this development, are wondering how to situate themselves. What do you say to them?
Card. PP: It is an area in which discernment belongs to the local Church, that is to say to the bishops, in communion with those who make up the people of God. It is important that Catholics can make their voices heard, with arguments that are based on their faith, including in such sensitive debates. And this even if the law has already been passed, because they do so in the name of defending the dignity and value of every human life. But it must always remain a debate of reason, and not drift ideologically.
The Pope has been pleading for several months for us to take advantage of the Covid-19 crisis by changing the model, but the temptation to return to the “world before” is very strong. How can you not give in to it?
Card. PP: It is true that one can have the impression of going back in time. This is a sign that some indeed have a very short memory, as if they had forgotten the experience we have just had.
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As the Pope said in Fratelli Tutti, we are all part of the same human family and we have a duty to take care of each other. But I believe that we must also be able to accept real changes, to make certain sacrifices. We cannot continue to have the same lifestyle by exploiting our world as we have done so far. It is this change that will allow us to achieve a happy life.
Since his election, Pope Francis has undertaken to reform the Curia. Is it working better than before?
Card. PP: Many reforms have been made since the beginning of the pontificate. In the economic field, for example, we have transferred the management of funds to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (Apsa) and to the Secretariat for the Economy.
It is now, for us, to begin to live the reform. In a complex and centuries-old organism like the Roman Curia, change can cause certain difficulties. But there is a real desire to ensure that it is an instrument at the service of the Holy Father for the good of the Church. We must now avoid anything that may have clouded the image of its services in the past. We therefore have a great responsibility.
When will the new constitution be published?
Card. PP: I don’t have a date to give you. It depends on the Pope. The text, which aims to give a coherent framework to all the reforms already undertaken, is currently being examined by the canonists to adapt the terminology to the legal character of the document.
The reform also involves the trial, the opening of which was announced by the Vatican, in a case of hazardous investments in London. Is this trial a turning point?
Card. PP: I wouldn’t say that. The turning point is rather the reforms that have been made for several years. The change is here. This trial is rather the consequence of previous reforms.
Will this trial be a moment of truth?
Card. PP: I think so, of judicial truth, anyway. The real truth is the Lord who knows it. The truth established in court is human truth. But I really hope that she can emerge during this trial, for the good of all.
→ EDITORIAL. Collective responsibility
In France, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church is due to deliver its conclusions soon. What do you think is the most appropriate attitude to face it?
Card. PP: It will probably be a great moment of suffering. But one should not be afraid of the truth. We have to put it in that perspective. And this is also the reason why we asked for the constitution of this commission, to understand what really happened. We are sad, and I know that many Catholics are going to be very saddened and scandalized by what they are going to read. But we have to go through this ordeal. From there can come a new consciousness to fight against these phenomena and to prevent the repetition of these acts.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
The Italian cardinal, 66 years old, was ordained a priest in 1980.
Graduated in Canon Law, in 1986 he joined the diplomatic services of the Holy See, which took him to Nigeria and then to Mexico.
In 2002, he was appointed Undersecretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretary of State. He becomes the linchpin of the Holy See to obtain the implementation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
In 2013, Pope Francis appointed him Secretary of State (first collaborator of the Pope in the government of the Church). The following year, he was elevated to the cardinalate.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin pleads for a “diplomacy of love” with two major points of attention: the South of the world and a contribution from the Vatican to European construction.