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John Paul II's Diplomacy

Interview With J. Coulet, of French Edition of L'Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2005 (Zenit) - In his recent address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited by the Holy See, John Paul II highlighted humanity's four main challenges today: life, food, peace and freedom.

To better understand the characteristics of the Pope's diplomacy, we interviewed Jean-Michel Coulet, editor of the French edition of L'Osservatore Romano. Coulet is co-author with, among others, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Jean-Louis Tauran, of "The Diplomacy of Jean Paul II," published by Cerf.

Q: Are the four challenges highlighted by the Pope in his address constants of John Paul II's diplomacy?

Coulet: Indeed, the four challenges highlighted by John Paul II are constants; one might even say they are the pillars of papal diplomacy today, and also of his magisterium since his election.

One finds these leitmotifs in the great encyclicals that have marked his pontificate, "Evangelium Vitae," "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," "Redemptor Hominis," but also in all his addresses at the Vatican or during his trips. These key words are at the basis of all the actions of the Holy See's diplomats in the world.

In regard to papal diplomacy, it has confidence in international law, which is constantly evolving, and participates in its elaboration -- for example, the new concepts of the right of humanitarian intervention, or the rights of minorities.

One must admit that the Pope fights on all fronts: the defense of life and the struggle against hunger -- notably within international but also within regional organizations; peace and freedom, in bilateral relations with states. We must not forget that John Paul II maintains diplomatic relations with 178 states.

He is convinced that a rigorous application of the law will make it possible to avoid the weakest being victims of violence of the strongest. "The force of the law, he says, must prevail over the law of force."

Q: In his address the Pope said that to promote peace he has frequently intervened personally and by the means of Vatican diplomacy. According to you, which are the greatest successes, and failures, of the Holy See in this area?

Coulet: Without question, John Paul II's greatest "success" is the result of his Ostpolitik, or his state diplomacy, in the '80s. The end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall was John Paul II's great warhorse. For him, the foundation of the rights of man rests on the recognition by sovereign states of religious liberty understood as the basis of all rights.

One can also mention the success of papal mediation in resolving the differences that opposed Argentina and Chile on the subject of the southern zone.

Nevertheless, a war that breaks out despite the repeated appeals of the Pope is always perceived as a failure; but he never admits defeat and repeats tirelessly, whether the moment is opportune or inopportune, as he did for the Gulf conflict in '91 that "War is an adventure with no return," or in Kosovo "That it is never too late to negotiate."

John Paul II uses all the diplomatic channels, whether through bilateral relations, or within international organizations, such as the U.N. or its specialized institutions. He knows no respite! One will recall that on the eve of the conflict in Iraq, he played his cards one last time by sending two emissaries to both sides.

Q: Do you feel that the Pope's appeals are heard by heads of government throughout the world?

Coulet: His appeals never remain a dead letter because they challenge not only politicians, but also the press which serves as a relay with public opinion.

Basically a strategist, John Paul II has always known how to make use of the means of communication to transmit messages or launch appeals. He knows that governments are extremely attentive to public opinion, which is often spontaneous. He makes use of democracy, which according to the social teaching of the Church, means the participation of citizens in society's choices, the possibility to sanction governments, and solidarity.

Certainly no head of state or government is indifferent to the Pope's word and to the positions he takes. Proofs of this are the many audiences that the Pope grants to politicians, of all persuasions, who come to the Vatican, or whom he meets during his trips.

Among the politicians who come to see him, one notes several categories: those who are animated by true good will and who come to seek advice; the latter are far more numerous than one thinks and they don't always profess the Catholic religion; over time they have become "close" friends of the Pope, which makes it possible to have frank conversations outside the barriers imposed by diplomacy.

There ...

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