The World’s Greatest Peacemaker?

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The World’s Greatest Peacemaker?

The latest Nobel Peace Prize honors Colombia’s negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. But behind the scenes, another power is gaining great clout as a global peacemaker.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 7 for negotiating a peace deal with Marxist militant rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (farc).

His peace deal had been rejected in a referendum on October 2, when 50.2 percent of votes opposed it. This didn’t bother the Nobel committee, however, which said it valued his “resolute efforts” to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

Nearly a quarter of a million people have died in the conflict, and over 6 million have been forced to flee their homes.

But despite Colombians’ rejection of the peace deal, the Nobel Prize marks a major milestone for another group: the Catholic Church.

The church was central to this deal. Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, probably the most powerful figure in the church outside of the pope himself, personally attended the deal’s signing ceremony prior to the referendum. Not only that, he gave a mass at the Church of St. Peter Claver—a Catholic church named after a Jesuit saint—for those attending the signing ceremony.

Cardinal Parolin said that Pope Francis had been following the negotiations closely. This statement came as no surprise: The pope spoke in support of the negotiations during his visit to Cuba last year. “We do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure,” the pope said.

“May the bloodshed by thousands of innocent people during long decades of armed conflict … sustain all the efforts being made, including those on this beautiful island, to achieve definitive reconciliation,” he continued.

The Catholic Church attended the peace negotiations in Cuba, pushing both sides to reach a deal.

“This country of Catholics has come together in prayer,” said Parolin. “Colombians have lived through forced displacements and violence. … And that is why we need to find the road to peace and justice.”

The international church strongly supported the deal, but many Catholic priests within Colombia were more skeptical, which may have played a role in its rejection by Colombian voters.

But despite that, the farc negotiations are an important milestone in the Vatican’s rise to prominence as an international peacemaker.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation (kaf) is the think tank for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Last November, the foundation produced a paper called “Microstate and Superpower—The Vatican in International Politics.”

Its conclusion is clear from the title. “At first glance, the Vatican is a microstate without massive resources,” the authors wrote. “Be that as it may, it does have a great deal of symbolic power, not least thanks to it partially sharing its identity with a world religion, which makes it a superpower after all, religiously, culturally and socially.”

The foundation specifically noted the power of the Catholic Church as a mediator and unifier and said, “The Holy See has, in fact, been involved in central decision-making and events of world politics for a long time, acting patiently behind the scenes, particularly since the middle of the 20th century.”

Representing a “third way between liberalism [that’s classical liberalism, rather than what Americans would call liberalism] and Marxism,” the Vatican has developed considerable “soft power … based on its reputation as an honest broker, a role whose impact has been increasing since the end of the Cold War.”

The kaf wrote that “there are clear indications of efforts being made under Pope Francis’s leadership to reach out beyond the faith by putting forward ethical-universal arguments rather than Catholic-moral ones. … Consequently, the Holy See is developing into an informal authority on moral standards reaching far beyond the boundaries of Catholicism.” The pope is now reaching out to the world, “not just as head of the church and head of state, but as a moral authority,” the foundation said.

Perhaps the biggest example of this yet is the peace deal between the United States and Cuba. Since the deal was finalized, much more information has emerged about the church’s role.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has close ties with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington. The two discussed peace with Cuba, according to a September 2015 Mother Jones article about the background of the U.S.-Cuba deal. A group of people within and without the White House who wanted a deal with Cuba held a meeting with Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston on March 2014. These cardinals then contacted the pope. When President Barack Obama traveled to Rome three weeks later, he talked about it in his private discussion with the pope.

Because of these talks, the pope sent what Mother Jones called “forceful, confidential” letters to President Obama, as well as Cuban President Raúl Castro. He told Cuban Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Ortega to deliver the letter personally to President Obama. The cardinal held on to the letter until he had the opportunity to make a visit to the White House.

That opportunity came on Aug. 18, 2014, when Ortega gave a speech at Georgetown University. After delivering his speech, Ortega secretly visited the White House, handing the president the letter without his name appearing in the visitor’s logs.

“We haven’t received communications like this from the pope that I’m aware of other than this instance,” a senior U.S. official said. “And that gave, I think, greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward.”

In October 2015, U.S. negotiators traveled to Rome at the pope’s invitation to work on a deal. “It was at the Vatican that the two sides hammered out their final agreement on the prisoner exchange and restoring diplomatic relations,” wrote Mother Jones. “The pope agreed to act as guarantor of the final accord.”

The Catholic Church was absolutely central to the Cuba deal; it would not have happened without them. The farc deal makes the Catholic Church now central to a second major peace negotiation in just two years.

The Catholic Church is very influential within Latin America. But its role as a peacemaker extends much further. The kaf also drew attention to the role the Catholic Church’s soft power played in the fall of the Soviet Union. “This underscores the highly effective and powerful synergy between the political and spiritual dimensions of the Holy See’s foreign-policy activities,” it wrote. “It also illustrates how the Holy See’s power of action extends beyond the church through the pope’s role as political spokesman.”

The Vatican has also involved itself in many, smaller, lower-profile engagements. One of the most recent was the U.S.-Iran deal. In March 2014, three U.S. Catholic bishops met with four high-ranking ayatollahs in Iran. They “used the four-day meeting to establish a dialogue about nuclear weapons and the role of religious leaders in the process of diplomatic rapprochement,” wrote the kaf. “While this was para-governmental diplomatic action in the narrow sense, such probing, informal contacts by non-diplomats can prepare the ground for more official cooperation, not least in the nuclear area. This illustrates the breadth and depth of the Vatican networks in the area of foreign policy as well.”

Most significantly, the kaf notes the Vatican’s attempts to negotiate peace in Jerusalem:

In fact, the pope’s advocacy for interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land is fundamentally political. … In 2010, for instance, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung referred to Pope Benedict as “pope, pilgrim, politician” on the occasion of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Pope Francis similarly acted in the role of political mediator during his first trip to Israel in May 2014. He obviously sought to go beyond the confines of his religious office to change the world using the peace-promoting engagement of the Holy See. … When Pope Francis decided to not (only) stand at the Western Wall but to also make an unscheduled stop at the 8-meter high concrete wall separating the Palestinian territories from Israel in Bethlehem, this represented a brief yet telling manifestation of his political agenda. The photograph went around the world. There is therefore some doubt as to whether this was a “purely religious” pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as had been stated by the Holy See.

The kaf concluded that the huge power that the Vatican holds as a peacemaker makes it a “superpower.” Since that report, its superpower stature has only grown.

The Trumpet has forecast for years that the Vatican will play a major role as a worldwide peacemaker. We have said it will be crucial in helping the fractious nations of Europe come together for a brief time as a United States of Europe. And we have also said that the Vatican is going to play a major role in Jerusalem.

“We can expect the Roman Catholic Church to continue to press its way into Middle Eastern affairs. … As both Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flurry have forecast, we should watch for Europe and the Catholic Church to take an ever more intense interest in the Jerusalem situation,” we wrote in our free booklet He Was Right.

The Catholic Church will use peace negotiations to try to gain control of Jerusalem, a city it has tried to control for hundreds of years. So much of the power we have forecast that the Catholic Church will wield revolves around peacemaking and negotiations. This is exactly the power we see the Catholic Church building right now.

This peacemaking power is about to have a huge impact on the world. To learn more, read “The Counterfeit Peacemaker.”