The pope’s secretary of state says it is “never too late” to negotiate and the Holy See “is always ready to help the parties to take this road.” He recognized that if the Ukrainian conflict were to spread into the rest of Europe it would be a gigantic catastrophe.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin expressed his fright at the prospect of an extension of the conflict in Europe and a new Cold War between two blocs when he spoke with the Italian press on February 28.
Speaking of the possibility of the war spreading on the continent, he said, “It would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions, even if, unfortunately, it is not an outcome that can be completely excluded,” he told the Italian national media La Repubblica, La Stampa, Il Messaggero and Il Corriere della Sera. He noted statements “in recent days that have evoked the incidents that preceded and provoked the Second World War,” saying, “these references make one shudder.”
Advocating de-escalation, the Italian cardinal assured that the only reasonable and constructive way to de-escalate the conflict is through dialogue, as Pope Francis tirelessly reminds us.
“Although what we feared and hoped would not happen has happened — the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine — I am convinced that there is always room for negotiation. It is never too late! Because the only reasonable and constructive way to settle differences is through dialogue, as Pope Francis never tires of repeating.”
He added, “The Holy See, which in recent years has followed the events in Ukraine constantly, discreetly, and with great attention, offering its willingness to facilitate dialogue with Russia, is always ready to help the parties to resume that path.”
The unprecedented gesture of February 25, when the pope went in person to the Russian embassy, confirms this total disposition of Pope Francis to facilitate negotiations.
“The military attack, whose tragic consequences we have all already witnessed, must be stopped immediately,” the secretary of state insisted.
“I take advantage of this occasion,” said Cardinal Parolin, “to renew the pressing invitation that the Holy Father made during his visit to the Russian embassy to the Holy See, to stop the fighting and return to negotiations.”
The cardinal said:
I would like to recall the words of Pius XII on 24 August 1939, a few days before the outbreak of the Second World War: ‘Let men return to understanding. Let them resume negotiating. By negotiating with good will and with respect for each other’s rights, they will find that honourable success is never precluded from sincere and active negotiations.’
The Secretary of State also spoke about the disagreements between the Churches: “In the history of the Church, unfortunately, there has never been a lack of particularities and they have led to many painful divisions, as St. Paul testifies at the very origin of Christianity, and who at the same time exhorts us to overcome them. In this sense, we see encouraging signs in the appeals of the heads of the Orthodox Churches, who show willingness to leave aside the memory of mutual wounds and to work for peace.”
On the other hand, the Churches also “agree in expressing grave concern about the situation and in affirming that, apart from any other consideration, the values of peace and human life are what is truly at the heart of the Churches, which can play a fundamental role in preventing the situation from worsening further.”
Finally, returning to the ongoing conflict, Cardinal Parolin said: “Once again we see that communication and listening to each other is necessary in order to fully know and understand the reasons of others. When people stop communicating and listening sincerely to each other, they look at each other with suspicion and end up exchanging only mutual accusations. Developments in recent months have only fuelled this mutual deafness, leading to open conflict. The aspirations of each country and their legitimacy must be the subject of a common reflection, in a broader context and, above all, taking into account the choices of citizens and respecting international law. History is full of examples confirming that this is possible.”
On the day of the war’s outbreak, Cardinal Parolin released a message in various languages, calling for peace and urging the faithful not to lose hope. The message can be viewed here.