This author rarely gets into the political arena that is associated with the Bush II White House. However it should be said that George Bush II is making a politically astute and diplomatically keen move in visiting the Holy Father last week atÂ the Vatican. While everyone at times thinks about Â the Vatican as the smallest country in the world, most people tend to forget that it is perhaps the most diplomatically, â€œWiredâ€ country in the world. What I mean by this is that because of its global presence and uniquely passive role (namely in not having military troops involved worldwide) the Catholic Church is a great observer of the tides of political and social movements. Of course the Church is not passive when it exhorts the United States to cease military hostilities throughout the Persian Gulf, just as it exhorts all countries to pursue the objective of peace.
Diplomatically however the Church is poised as a keen conduit for diplomatic mediation as well as what Henry Kissinger used to call, â€œshuttle diplomacy.â€ Some of Benedictâ€™s appointments within the Vatican Curia, especially within the Secretariat of Stateâ€™s office perhaps hint that papally induced diplomacy might be on the horizon. It would make a lot of sense to suggest that an Apostolic Nuncio should engage as a neutral intermediary to secure a peaceful solution to sectarian violence in the Persian Gulf. During the Iran hostage crisis of the Carter administration the White House missed a unique opportunity to have the worldâ€™s oldest diplomatic corps attempt an intervention to secure hostage Americanâ€™s release. After all in addition to the Churchâ€™s extensive diplomatic experiences, neither side should be directly or diplomatically miffed with the activities of a peace motivated, clerical ambassador. Usually the Holy See is mute about the behind the scenes negotiations that it might provide. However, it appears that from a truly pastoral perspective, Benedict XVI is poised to not only preach preferences of world peace, but lend some practical intervention as well.
From an American perspective the United States State Department should welcome any and all overtures the Vatican might offer. Politically there is no hidden agenda for territorial gain on the part of the Holy See, just the restoration of peace to a turmoil part of the world. Additionally the plight of Eastern Catholics that are sometimes in the path of Moslem and other sectarian violence would be able to realize a negotiated â€œsafetyâ€ for their unique and ancient brand of worship. It appears that a Vatican induced effort for negotiations would result in a,â€win-winâ€ for everyone involved. Additionally it would also demonstrate the uniquely global influence that the Bishop of Rome and his designates have to motivate and affect global conflicts. During the Reagan years we can only look with favor on the social and political changes that the Holy See negotiated in Eastern Europe. No one doubts the redefining of Poland and other Soviet satellite nations from Communist rule to nascent democracy.
Perhaps it is time for observers from the Holy See to more actively incorporate their activities into global issues. In addition to being a theologically motivating factor in the world, the Church is capable of political, social and economic influences that effect nations as well. Such â€œswayâ€ power should indicate to American and global leaders that Catholic Church influence are motivated for the benefits of global humanity and not just that which benefits Her followers. Benedict XVI is in a position of an unusually unique and nonthreatening influence and is aided with the global outreach of the Church throughout the world. Perhaps George Bush II should more seriously consider the true depth of papal influence after his visit, to ,â€His Holy Fatherâ€ and utilize the experiences of seasoned as well as an established Church diplomatic corp to mediate an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan issues.
Maybe the papal initiative of â€œgoing greenâ€ within the Vatican is a sublime announcement that the Holy See is more inclined than most observers think in becoming part of the debates on global issues. While it might seem insignificant in scale and scope as an effort to combat global warming, this endorsement is an interesting application of Gaudium et Spes, The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which teaches that the Church should provide a externally significant participation in global affairs. While this Vatican endorsement of environmental matters is sublime, it should be noted as a significant movement of a monolithic institution into the mainstream of universal concerns. Imagine the implications of universal Catholic â€œgreeningâ€, not for its practical applications, but for its motivational and influential benefits on the world population. Perhaps such a concern would lead to a universal acceptance of not only the acute need for good global stewardship of resources, but to interfaith dialogue that might lead to the better understanding of Christian and non-Christian faiths. While it is substantially off the mark in terms of negotiating peace in the Persian Gulf, Benedictâ€™s openness to accept the worldâ€™s environmental sensitivities announces perhaps the most obvious concern the Holy See has for all of mankind. Such a practical papal announcement really indicates the Churchâ€™s common goals towards the preservation of not only the planet, but for all of humanity.