Cardinal Pietro Parolin: A Man to Watch

Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on June 29, 2021.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin: A Man to Watch

It seems that whenever the pope wants a deal with a dictator, he sends Parolin.

Next to Pope Francis, Pietro Parolin holds the second-most powerful office in the Catholic Church. As secretary of state of the Vatican, he manages its foreign relations. Last week, Parolin traveled to Lebanon, which is on the verge of a full-blown war with Israel. Parolin’s reputation as a Middle East expert could give him greater prominence as conflict in the region continues.

Last October, the Pillar asked, “Could Parolin Be Pope?” and answered: “It seems increasingly likely. … But a Vatican secretary of state has not been elected pope since Pius xii in 1939.”

Before Pius came into office, he already played a crucial role in the Catholic Church and European politics. Parolin is involved in politics with even more geopolitical scope. His power and potential make him a man to watch.

No matter who the next pope will be, the future of the Catholic Church should concern us all. It has been the most powerful international institution for almost 2,000 years. With around 1.4 billion adherents and influence over governments worldwide, it can shape the future of politics.

Despite all this power, the church is in crisis. An internal battle between reformers and traditionalists threatens to tear it apart. It has lost hundreds of thousands of members in its traditional stronghold of Europe. Francis has not resolved these core issues.

“Bosses cannot always do what they want,” Pope Francis told Reuters in 2018 after his failure to appoint a woman as the deputy head of the Vatican office. “They have to convince. There is a verb, a word, that helps me very much in governing: ‘to persuade.’ It is persuasion, slowly persuading, if you can manage to do it.”

Rather than imposing his will, Francis seeks to convince others and make incremental changes. Many believe he will likely be replaced by a more authoritative man. Parolin might be that man.

The Middle East

The Vatican says Parolin is an “expert in matters concerning the Middle East.” Most recently, he set his sights on solving the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Parolin stated in February that the Vatican requested “that Israel’s right to defense, which has been invoked to justify this operation, be proportional, and certainly with 30,000 deaths, it is not.” He added, “[W]e must find other ways to solve the problem of Gaza, the problem of Palestine.”

During his visit to Lebanon, Parolin called for peace. In a June 26 press conference, he noted that the Vatican “asks for peace proposals to be welcomed, so that fighting stops on each side, so hostages in Gaza are released, so that the necessary aid arrives unhindered to the Palestinian population. Lebanon, the Middle East, the whole world certainly doesn’t need war.”

A Diplomat

If Parolin became pope, he would follow the footsteps of Pius xii. Parolin has praised the World War ii pope for his actions during the war and has defended him against critics. In many ways, he has followed Pius’s example in working with world governments.

Pius xii, born Eugenio Pacelli, had an interesting résumé prior to becoming pope in 1939. He was the Vatican’s ambassador to the kingdom of Bavaria starting in 1917. In 1920, he became the first apostolic nuncio to Germany, initiating diplomatic relations between Germany and the Vatican.

Parolin visited Berlin, Germany, in 2021 to celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations (delayed by a year due to coronavirus lockdowns). He noted:

In Germany too, the [Vatican] has not contented itself with observing events and assessing their significance but has always worked for effective cooperation between church and state, for a truly joint and orderly effort, for the benefit of the individual and the common good. The common good is linked to peace in many ways.

As the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s, Pacelli became intertwined with German politics and even enabled Adolf Hitler’s takeover. He encouraged the Catholic Center Party to form the coalition that brought Hitler to power in 1933. In July of that year, Pacelli signed the Reich Concordat with Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen—the first treaty of Nazi Germany.

After the war, the Vatican was crucial to Germany’s rise. Parolin said:

How could we here in Berlin forget the great contribution of Pope John Paul ii to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is rightly called the “Wall of Shame.”

Even many agnostics and nonbelievers have defined the fall of the wall as a “miracle” that did not happen by chance during the pontificate of the first Slavic pope in history who believed and proclaimed from the beginning that such a miracle was possible.

Europe’s recent drift toward secularism has left the Catholic Church less involved. Parolin is passionate about renewing relations.

Born 10 years after World War ii, Parolin’s past lacks the drama of Pius xii. But his Vatican career, which began in 1986, is marked by incredible foreign-policy accomplishments.

His first notable achievement came while he was stationed in Mexico from 1989 to 1992. While Mexico is a majority Catholic country, for over a century its anticlerical government had no relations with the Vatican. Parolin contributed to negotiations between Mexico and the Vatican in 1992. In 1996, he helped craft an agreement with the Communist government of Vietnam allowing the Catholic Church to nominate bishops for Vietnamese dioceses with the government’s approval.

In 2002, Parolin became Pope John Paul ii’s undersecretary of state, effectively the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister. In 2007, he was credited with negotiating the release of 15 captured British Navy personnel by Iran. In 2009, Pope Benedict xvi made him the Vatican’s ambassador to Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.

In 2013, the same year he was elected pontiff, Pope Francis nominated Parolin as the Vatican’s secretary of state, basically making him Vatican City’s prime minister. He has been in that role ever since.

The United States under President Barack Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2014 with Vatican mediation. According to an “informed source” who spoke to the National Catholic Register, Parolin was instrumental in crafting the deal, having frequent, confidential discussions with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Parolin is also influential in maintaining the Vatican’s controversial 2018 deal with China. Neither the Vatican nor China have ever released details of the agreement, but analysts believe it is based on the bishop appointment deal Parolin negotiated with Vietnam. On May 21, Parolin confirmed the Vatican wants the deal renewed for another two years.

Across pontificates, it seems that whenever the pope wants a deal with a dictator, he sends Parolin.

Parolin’s diplomatic accomplishments say a lot about how the Catholic Church would act under his papacy. But there are other factors to consider.

Liberal or Conservative?

Parolin could solve the current struggle between liberal and conservative forces in the Catholic Church. The Pillar wrote in April:

With early agreement around the likely “left” and “right” candidates for the next conclave, some are beginning to wonder if Cardinal Pietro Parolin could emerge as the consensus cardinal of the “sensible center” and offer an alternative to a divisive showdown in the Sistine Chapel.

For some 60 years, the Catholic Church has been caught in this struggle. In 1964, the late Herbert W. Armstrong asked: “Will even the Roman Church, which has boasted that Rome never changes, be forced to see its dogma on sex and marriage crumble before the ‘New Morality’ onslaught?” At the time, Pope Paul vi went from opposing artificial means of contraception to allowing a reevaluation only six months later.

In 1978, Mr. Armstrong predicted how the crisis would likely be solved:

What does seem more likely to me, as an observer and one who understands what is prophesied, is that in the privacy of the locked-in Sistine Chapel there will be sharp contention—a heated power struggle from both liberal and conservative camps. It will threaten to split the church right down the middle. Neither side will, in the first few days, give ground.

Then what seems prophetically likely is that a strong conservative leader will suggest a solution to save the church. Let the Vatican take the lead in uniting the nations of Europe into a political union.

The Bible gives a clear image of the core issues the Catholic Church will soon dominate. For these prophecies to come to pass, it needs a leader who acts with authority.

What Is Prophesied

In Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?, Mr. Armstrong explained how Revelation 13 and 17 show a relationship between a beast representing an empire and a woman representing a church. History reveals this to be the so-called Holy Roman Empire.

The next pope will continue this tradition.

Historically, the Catholic Church has influenced and directed political leaders. Revelation 17 shows this will happen again, as our book on the Holy Roman Empire explains:

In verse 4, God prophesies that this woman, or church, would have an international presence, and would come to possess incredible wealth: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls ….” She would be unmistakable among the world’s religions. Her wealth and influence would be unmatched; she would truly be a religion to behold.

John also prophesies that this “woman” influences the “kings of the earth.” She has a habit of forming relationships with and ruling over secular governments. Verse 2 says the “inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” She is an imperialistic religion with a habit of intertwining herself with secular governments. If you study history, only one church can consistently be described this way.

Parolin is already shaping the Catholic Church in this historic and prophetic role. But no matter who leads the church in the future, God’s prophecies are sure. To learn more, request a free copy of The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.