The Vatican’s Political Rise
The Catholic Church is playing a major and increasing role in world affairs. A few recent examples illustrate this point.
In 2015, it was because of letters from the pope, delivered in a secret visit to the United States by Cuban Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Ortega, that the U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba. The details of that peace deal were hammered out at the Vatican.
In September of this year, Pope Francis made a six-day trip to Colombia. This was no quiet, pastoral visit. It came after the Catholic Church played the leading role in ending a conflict that had killed nearly a quarter of a million people. The church negotiated a deal between Colombia’s government and Marxist militant rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Now it is trying to negotiate a similar deal with the National Liberation Army, another Colombian Marxist separatist group. At the beginning of the pope’s visit, the leader of one of Colombia’s most powerful drug gangs, the Gulf Clan, sent a message to the pope and to the Colombian president offering to surrender.
Many in Colombia do not support the terms of these church-brokered peace compromises. In fact, they voted against them last year on the grounds that the deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia granted the Marxist rebels too much. Right or wrong, it is a powerful example of the Catholic Church shaping the fate of nations.
It may soon repeat its mediating role even more overtly in neighboring Venezuela, which is engulfed in violence. During his trip to Colombia, the pope met with Venezuelan priests. The Catholic Church has long played a role in this conflict. Last October, President Nicolás Maduro met privately with the pope, who has pushed for several efforts at negotiation.
As religion revives in Europe, the Catholic Church will soon play a similar role there.