Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti about Vatican diplomacy, Ukraine and Syria


The Vatican’s international relations have their own unique history of diplomacy and influence the course of events. The special status of a mini-state, its uniqueness often allows exerting influence in places and in ways that are inaccessible to secular diplomats. A former professor of ancient Armenian literature, and now - Apostolic Nuncio, the Vatican's ambassador in Ukraine Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti shared his idea of the papal diplomacy principles at a meeting with students and guests at Dragomanov National Pedagogical University. in Kyiv, on December 13.


“The king is ruling, the army is fighting, and the Church is praying for the king,” this was the format of relations between the state and the church. Now, according to the archbishop, the Holy See communicates even those countries that are still treated with caution. Because its purpose is to represent the interests of more than a billion believers and it must protect their identity.

The Vatican has established mutual diplomatic recognition with 101 countries of the world, to which Mauritania joined only a week ago. 7-8 of the countries practice an intermediary form of cooperation where representatives of the church on the site has other diplomatic powers. 

The power of the papal diplomacy relies on the fundamentals and values,” the ambassador noted. “Its main goal is the promotion of the protection of every human person and of moral values. The fundamental basis is the protection of human rights.” Important is the very Christian foundation, where God became man and enrobed everyone in the divine nature; the fact that God Himself becomes the man through Jesus Christ indicates a close relationship of every creation with the Creator. “So the one who violates the rights of man violates the rights of God; because human rights are absolute and are the foundation of the papal diplomacy,” he added.

Equally important is the clarification that the churches may often perform a different role becoming a platform for the parties to the conflict who see no other reason to start a dialogue. The Church in this position is the only place where such a dialogue is possible if the conflict reached a stalemate.

The Church is engaged to help affected countries, and Ukraine and Syria became the main objects of support. In the case of Syria, the Pope has adopted a unique decision in the Church history when the Apostolic Nuncio of the country became a cardinal, to have full rights and speak on behalf of the Holy See. One reason for this decision was the fact that the local churches have mired in political conflict, becoming biased, and the Vatican had to keep a distance so as not to plunge into the conflict itself.

On April 24 this year, on the instruction of Pope Francis, all the Catholic parishes of Europe collected donations for the victims in Ukraine. This further resulted in 7.8 million collected, where the Pope personally donated 5 million. Now the money will be implemented as assistance in the Initiative “The Pope for Ukraine,” to which Ukrainian civic and religious organizations have filed more than 250 applications. The mission does not place restrictions on the religious beliefs of performers, aiming instead to help those who need food, medicines, water and so on.

According to Gugerotti, basic principles, on which diplomacy operates in countries of conflict are the two principles: territorial integrity and immutability of borders. Only under compliance with these regulations and their implementation in life, not just in words, those who interfere in the conflict can be trusted. He sees the situation in post-Soviet countries (after serving in Georgia, Belarus and Armenia - ed.) as the one where a feeling of total helplessness prevails. Conventionally, he calls this phenomenon the “Gaidar crisis,” where the idea of possession of money is fundamental to recognize you a person, which fully contradicts the socialist doctrine. In this way comes the illusion that a wealthy man automatically becomes the owner and can take on all decisions. However, Ukraine still is one of the leading countries in the CIS, according to the ambassador, which is trying to get out of this vicious circle of ideas.

One of the major threats to Ukraine, which could not be avoided, is emphasizing the religious nature of the conflict. “The first danger is to show that the conflict in Donbas emerged on religious grounds because it is a lie,” the diplomat said. “Of course, there are some controversies between the churches, but they have never created this conflict ... I will not say that the Churches do not strive to make the situation sometimes even more difficult, but there are many people who are striving to keep peace.”

Another important aspect is the division between legal and illegal criteria of what is happening. Political or national reasons can be called legal when they really are those, without modifying the criteria depending on the interlocutor. Only if these the principles are met, the dialogue and building trust are possible.

According to the Nuncio, the churches can create a similar neutral platform for dialogue, which will be a place for everyone and it will be protected from external influences in the future, “A huge step is the fact that different churches meet and start communicating. This is a basic element of all of Christianity as such. If God asks us to love our enemies, he asks for more love between us. I would say that now in Ukraine, this process is only in its infancy, but we are already leaving the kindergarten.”


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