Home > Archives > 03 - 2004 > THE USA AND THE HOLY SEE. The Long Road
from issue no. 03 - 2004


The launch of the book* by Jim Nicholson, Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, at the Pontifical Lateran University, 31 March 2004. The speeches by Senator Giulio Andreotti, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the author

Giulio Andreotti

 the panel of speakers: from left, senator Giulio Andreotti, the editor of the book Giovanni Cubeddu, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the American ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson

the panel of speakers: from left, senator Giulio Andreotti, the editor of the book Giovanni Cubeddu, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the American ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson

Our magazine 30Days in the Church and the World was very happy to publish, on the 20th anniversary of the setting up of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Holy See, the historical reconstruction of the long awaiting that had become ever more difficult to understand while the nunciatures and the relative embassies, that had numbered 38 in 1939, increased during the pontificate of John Paul II from 108 to 172.
Your mission, Mr. Ambassador Nicholson, will go down in history for the fact that you presented your letters of credentials a few hours after that 11 September 2001 which, with the massacre in New York, has given rise to an anguishing global problem, in facing which no one can avoid deep reflection and sacrifices. With prompt wisdom President Bush declared Bin Laden a traitor to his religion, so stemming the temptation to an anti-Islamic crusade, something that the new terrorists had perhaps looked forward to and still hope to arouse.
The second edition of this monograph, along with an historical analysis and greatly relevant details, comes out enhanced by two prefaces: one by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (an extraordinarily adaept pontifical diplomat) and the other by Secretary of State Colin Powell of whom many years ago, during a meeting in which he took part as Chief of Staff, I unpromptedly said had more of the diplomat than the soldier about him.
From the book’s chronicle emerges a singular assessment of Pius IX. The open-mindedness of the beginning of his pontificate won much favourable comment in the States, but not to the point of approval when the commander of the frigate “Constitution”, anchored off Gaeta where the Pontiff was in exile, welcomed him aboard for a visit. The officer was put under arrest and died during the trial. It should perhaps be said – and I have found matching evidence in studying Pius IX – that culturally the American people inclined more to an understanding of the Roman Republic rather than the Papal States and the authoritarianism of monarchies.
Our magazine 30Days in the Church and the World was very happy to publish, on the 20th anniversary of the setting up of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Holy See, the historical reconstruction of the long awaiting that had become ever more difficult to understand while the nunciatures and the relative embassies, that had numbered 38 in 1939, increased during the pontificate of John Paul II from 108 to 172.
And as for that, the reception given to refugees from the restored Papal States was hearty. The visitor to the Congress building in Washington admires the ceiling of the great central hall: it is the work of the painter Costantino Brumidi who, on the return of Pius IX, took to his heels, as we say, and found welcome and commissions on the other side of the ocean.
The trepidation always felt there in terms of relations with Rome is the jealous safeguarding of the Constitution from any infiltration of discrimination or religion. Let us be careful: that is not any accusation of agnosticism.
I want here to recall Italian President De Gasperi who, on his return from a visit to the United States, though gripped by genuine anxieties about the survival of Italians there, said with deep emotion that what had most struck him had been the words written up in the cemetery at Arlington where the Unknown Soldier is «unknown to all but not to God».
Pages of great consequence are devoted in Ambassador Nicholson’s monograph to the complicated construction of the relations of which we speak. There is thus the long mission to the States of the papal envoy, Cardinal Satolli, at the end of the nineteenth century, and the difficult weaving of relations with the episcopacy; there is the altogether unbalanced reaction in favor and against the dispatch of General Clark as fixed representative in Rome (1069 letters against the mere 186 in favor); we are taken through the subtle procedures aimed at resolving or at preventing the solution by presenting it as a matter of public expenditure, thus the domain of the Senate.
The interwoven history of two great figures – President Roosevelt and Pius XII – (indeed, Cardinal Pacelli as he was at the time of the trans-Atlantic visit decided on by Pius XI) represents a moment of encounter, with the search for common roots in Roosevelt’s social policy and in the social doctrine of the Church.
The American government much encouraged the non-belligerency of Italy, appreciating the efforts of the Vatican in that regard, including the visit of the Pope to the Quirinal in December 1939, that looked for a moment as if it had been successful. The historians have still not given an unequivocal and documented explanation of why Mussolini determined on war. The underestimation of American war capacity is, however, documented. In the files of the then Italian War Ministry lies a very detailed report by the military attaché to Washington, General Marras, on that gigantic potential. There is the unusual annotation that there was no need to forward it to the minister (who – let me point out – was Mussolini himself).
Jean-Louis Tauran with Jim Nicholson

Jean-Louis Tauran with Jim Nicholson

Italian belligerency led to serious distress for the diplomatic corps, forced to take refuge behind the apostolic walls. The number two of the Representation, Mr. Tittman, in the Vatican but, thanks to agreements with the Italian government – which arranged the journey via Lisbon – Mr Myron Taylor was able to come (17 September 1942) for two weeks, received twice by the Holy Father personally, and engaging in wide-ranging discussions with the Secretariat of State.
According to a dispatch from the Italian ambassador Guariglia, addressed to minister Ciano (that I transcribe): «On behalf of President Roosevelt, Taylor is said to have told His Holiness that the alliance and collaboration of America and England with Russia is based on solid reasons and is altogether free from equivocation or misunderstanding. There is solidarity with Russia not only in war but also in political action: America is well decided to let Bolshevik Russia take part in the negotiations and the arrangements for the future peace also.
The Holy Father answered the message by asking how could America and England agree moral, social and economic plans with Russia, the home of communism. Taylor answered that such objections no longer match the evolution that communism had gone through as party and exercise of state.
Much softening had occurred in Soviet doctrine and organization, the principles of communism are by now widespread and have in a certain way permeated the conscience and concepts of the modern world; it was hence a question of form and of adaptation to the individual situations of the various countries and of the various social agglomerations of which account was naturally to be taken but that will necessarily set in motion the new international order, in the social field as in the economic and political, to the adaptation and conciliation of the old principles with the new ones derived from communist doctrine».
Meantime a very tight-knit web of information had been set up in the Vatican, both to supply news to American families of their sons fighting in Europe, and to establish relations with Italian prisoners of war. During Vatican Council II, in a solemn demonstration of thanks, the armed forces expressed their gratitude to the cardinals and bishops who on every continent had offered our soldiers solidarity and news of their families. Among the army bishops there was a person toward whom the reasons for gratitude were enormous: the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Francis Spellman, who was first, when Italy no longer had friends in Washington, to take up our defense and so begin on the uphill climb.
It is a duty for me, even a moral one, to recall here the enormous aid the Italian people received from the American people after the war, with an abundance of relief that was truly providential.
From left, cardinals Agostino Cacciavillan, Darío Castrillón Hoyos and Pio Lagh

From left, cardinals Agostino Cacciavillan, Darío Castrillón Hoyos and Pio Lagh

Along with that memory goes the creation of the City of Children by a stupendous priest, Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, who in 1987 was with great ceremony emblematically awarded honorary citizen of Rome.
But there is also another figure to remember, who spent a long period extraordinarily hard at work in the interest of the Church, of America and of Italy: General Anthony Vernon Walters, a former combatant with the Brazilian army in Tuscany, military attaché at the US embassy in Rome, ambassador to Bonn and to the United Nations, assistant director of the CIA under the direction of George Bush.
An extraordinary polyglot, he was entrusted by President Eisenhower and other presidents of the United States with delicate missions, including a periodic visit to the Vatican to report to the person whom, with filial respect, he spoke of as the “numero uno”. Popes and presidents succeeded each other but Vernon Walters maintained his unofficial role, always devoting on his Roman visits considerable time to prayer in the American church of Santa Susanna.
In my introduction to the book I mention that during the visit to Rome of President John Kennedy, I had the opportunity, during a private breakfast offered by the American ambassador, to ask the president when a second embassy might be opened here. Did the fact that he was a Catholic favor the possibility or stand against it? He answered with great precision that he would be able to devote himself to the matter after re-election. Unfortunately assassination prevented John Kennedy from completing even his first term.
It was to be President Reagan who set up the embassy in the Vatican, with his friend William Wilson, whom I met again with pleasure in recent months on his visit here to Rome. Ambassador Nicholson meticulously stressed that the point of encounter between the White House and the Polish Pope was the realization by both of the role it would be possible to play to bring on the downfall of the Soviets through Solidarnosc. Reagan in his turn, by crediting Gorbacev’s intentions, brought off the masterpiece of reducing nuclear weapons by half.
It is with great compassion that our thoughts go to sick President Reagan who, by now for so many years, in the silence of his California, is on the threshold of a pre-announced death, one that almost maliciously delays.
In the meantime international circumstances have not only enabled further steps along Reagan’s path of balanced disarmament, but – while marking the fall of the Soviet empire – have seen new war fronts open under the banner of a ruthless terrorism.
In the second part of his book the ambassador analyzes some current aspects in relations with the Holy See.
The nature and perspectives of the two international entities are very different and approach to the great problems of peace and development can only partly coincide. There is need however – especially in a phase of great worries, of a quest for models, of tensions of various kinds – to strive to come together by overcoming prejudices and rigid barriers. In working out a more valid scheme for the restructuring of the UN objective points of agreement must be sought.
Of course when there is clash on fundamental theses such as the defense of life – as happened at the Cairo Conference – no negotiation is possible. But the spheres of possible understanding and mutual support are not marginal. In an impetus of historic recourse the Church as educator can help get over misunderstandings and conflicts of interest. The theme here dealt with of biotechnological food, for example, makes relevant the arguments stirred up in its time by the introduction of chemical fertilizers. In an expanding world, one that our theological view will not allow us to see as fatally contradicted by a lack of bread, we must hail innovation; indeed stimulate it by abandoning distrust and various types of protectionism.
On the thorny Iraq problem, in particular, moments of difficult dialogue have alternated.
A moment during the presentation of the book

A moment during the presentation of the book

On the historical plane Saddam Hussein proclaimed himself champion of order, going off to war – and horrendous chemical war – against the Iranian Revolution. Italy was much wiser on the subject. Certainly the exaggerations of the “Guide” of Teheran could not but arouse fears, but it was not serious thinking to see Saddam as the renovator of the imperial model that, especially in its last phase, had gone beyond all possible limits. Saddam, who continued to receive massive backing from part of the West and from some Arab countries (look at Egypt), felt encouraged to invade Kuwait, convinced that, as usual, the UN would restrict itself to solemn words of disapproval. Full stop.
One might even say with historico-moral concern that if Saddam hadn’t invaded Kuwait he would probably still be in command, undisturbedly continuing his persecution of the Kurds and sectors of the population; always on condition that he didn’t go beyond his feared operational hostility toward Israel.
For the rest, in the present state of things, it is not – especially here at the Lateran – all that important to ascertain whether and how many weapons of mass destruction the dictator had available. The problem is to sort out now the ways in which the shift to mutually advantageous conditions of life can be promoted with the former dictatorship, in a context more than heterogeneous. It would be unjust to accuse certain political positions – American and otherwise – of being exclusively oil-dominated in nature. But it is even more unjust not to see that in its indomitable defense of peace the Church is in no way subject to mercantile concerns.
If one remains stuck in a merely material view very strong contradictions will come into clash.
A final note, going back to Pius IX. If his hostility to the war on Austria had not been personally and institutionally insuperable perhaps – I say perhaps – he might have saved the Papal States as a federal model, with only Italy of the north liberated and unified. Garibaldi and Mazzini united with Gioberti in applause.
The insuperable attachment to peace – even leaving aside the learned quotations from Saint Augustine - is an inderogable line from which the modern popes, rid as they are of any connotation of temporal power, can never distance themselves.

Jim Nicholson

Jim Nicholson

This year marks the 20th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See. I have often characterized our relationship as one between the world’s temporal superpower and its spiritual superpower, both sharing a common priority to promote human dignity. When I became U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, I realized that the history of this distinctive partnership was not well known. When Trenta Giorni approached me about the possibility of writing this history, I welcomed the opportunity to add to the story of the diplomatic relationship between my country and the Holy See.
I want to thank Senator Andreotti and Trenta Giorni magazine for their interest in the United States, and for the opportunity to write about our relationship with the Vatican. I would also like to express my special thanks to Trenta Giorni editor, Giovanni Cubeddu, and his team, for their outstanding collaboration and professionalism in both publications of The Long Road – it has been a pleasure to work with him. Giovanni is a patient man when it comes to publishing deadlines, although I know we tried his patience a time or two. I am honored that His Eminence Cardinal Tauran and Secretary of State Powell have enriched this book with a preface in which they eloquently share their perspectives on this relationship. Finally, I want to thank Bishop Fisichella for his interest in this subject and for his hospitality here at the Lateran tonight.
It is a pleasure to see so many friends here this evening. I’m particularly pleased to see so many colleagues from the Vatican and the diplomatic corps with whom I have had the privilege of working these past two plus years. When I began work on the first edition of “The United States and the Holy See, The Long Road” two years ago with the help of a group of young research assistants I was intrigued to find out that this relationship began during the very first years of the American Republic. Its early protagonists included such personalities as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Jesuit, John Carroll, and Pope Pius VI.
The second edition of “The Long Road” takes our story right up to our 20th anniversary. The central issue of this most recent period was of course the war in Iraq – an issue in our relationship that has been subject to some considerable misunderstanding
For some two hundred years the diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Holy See ebbed and flowed as the geo-political climate of each historical period influenced the relationship. The early years saw the appointment of consuls and resident ministers to what was then the Papal States, here to assist U.S. citizens and promote U.S. commercial interests. With the loss of the Papal States in 1870 the relationship entered a long pause, as the United States and the Holy See continued to engage each other, but at a diplomatic distance.
With the outbreak of World War II and the challenge it posed to freedom and justice, this limited engagement was no longer tenable. Recognizing the important role the Holy See played throughout Europe, President Roosevelt appointed Myron Taylor as his Personal Representative to Pope Pius XII. Taylor would emerge as a crucial intermediary between the president and the pope as the U.S. tried unsuccessfully to keep Italy from entering the war. True to the humanitarian face Roosevelt had placed on his mission – a mission we continue to fulfill today – Taylor worked closely with the Vatican to feed refugees streaming across the borders of Europe, to provide material aid to the victims of war-torn Eastern Europe, and to assist allied prisoners of war.
Despite an effort by President Truman to formalize the relationship by appointing WWII hero, General Mark Clark, as U.S. Ambassador, the effort again ran aground in Congress, where emotional concerns about Church-State separation continued to generate opposition. As a result, there were occasional representatives in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, but it was only in 1984, with Pope John Paul II emerging as a critical voice for freedom and justice that President Reagan decided that the United States could no longer afford to be without an Ambassador to the Holy See. Recognizing in the Polish, globetrotting pope a friend and ally in his drive to “tear down” the Iron Curtain, President Reagan succeeded in getting, for the first time, the needed consent of the U.S. Congress and appointed William Wilson as the first U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. When Wilson presented his credentials to Pope John Paul II in April 1984, the Pope told him that renewed collaboration between the United States and the Holy See should mean, “exerting common efforts to defend the dignity and the rights of the human person.” The Pope’s words would set the direction for the future of this vital partnership between two of the world’s leading voices for freedom, justice, and human dignity.
Twenty years later, I can attest that the partnership has proven its value – to the United States, to the Holy See, and to the cause of human dignity. Working together during these past twenty years, the United States and the Holy See helped spur the collapse of communism both through our close consultation on developments in Poland, and, more profoundly, from what one of President Reagan’s advisors termed “a unity of spiritual view and a unity of vision on the Soviet empire” – that right would ultimately prevail. Likewise, in Central America, the United States and the Holy See opposed communist insurgents and ultimately restored stability to the region. In the Philippines, the U.S. and the Holy See were again on the side of freedom as we both helped steer that country toward a peaceful democratic transition. In international fora, we continue to actively promote human rights, religious freedom, and the dignity of human life on every continent.
The first edition of The Long Road covers the relationship from the beginning to my arrival here, coinciding with the tragic attacks of September 11. It includes the Holy See’s support for United States’ actions against the al Qaeda threat – a position then forcefully articulated by His Eminence Cardinal Tauran. The second edition of “The Long Road” takes our story right up to our 20th anniversary. The central issue of this most recent period was of course the war in Iraq – an issue in our relationship that has been subject to some considerable misunderstanding. I therefore welcomed the opportunity offered by Trenta Giorni to undertake a “second edition” of The Long Road in order to bring some clarity to these misconceptions.
First, let me say that the true test of a strong relationship between nation-states is whether it withstands tension and disagreement. The Iraq War provided such a test for the United States and the Holy See, although it was a test due more to disagreement over means than ends. We weathered that test for the basic reason that the United States and the Holy See never ceased to share a focus on the Iraqi people, and how we could work together to help build a democratic and prosperous future for the long-suffering Iraqis. In fact, the Holy See’s CARITAS relief organization has been active in Iraq before, during, and after the war, and is working closely with U.S. efforts to rebuild the health infrastructure. Likewise, the Chaldean Church, with over half a million Catholics in Iraq, has offered a needed voice of moderation and religious tolerance. The Chaldean Patriarch maintains a regular dialogue with U.S. Administrator, Ambassador Bremmer, on issues of relief, reconstruction, and religious freedom. Suzanne and I had the privilege of meeting the Patriarch in Rome shortly after his election, and he greeted me by saying: “Thank you for freeing my country!”
Despite our cooperation in Iraq, there is no doubt that the period before the war was a particularly intense time in our bilateral dialogue. The Holy See emerged as a focal point for diplomatic activity for countries on both sides of the Iraq issue. Recognizing the importance of the Holy See’s voice, my Embassy worked hard to convey U.S. concerns about Iraq to Vatican officials, highlighting Iraq’s 12-year defiance of United Nations resolutions, its use of weapons of mass destruction on its own people, and its continued internal repression and human rights abuses. We found that Vatican officials shared our concerns about Saddam Hussein’s regime and our desire to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In fact, senior officials went out of their way to counter a misleading public impression that the Holy See was sympathetic towards Iraq.
This is not to say that the Holy See supported war. The Pope was not in favor of the war. He’s against all wars because he’s a man of peace. But he is not a pacifist! He consistently affirmed what the Church teaches about war – that sometimes it is necessary as a last resort, and that it falls to civilian leaders to make the prudential decisions on whether military action is required to protect their citizens. The Holy See conveyed to us the moral and ethical framework they used to evaluate the situation in Iraq. Cardinal Laghi, representing the Pope, did an able job explaining the Vatican’s position. The President listened carefully; I was there. He then made his decision based on the threat information he had, and his responsibilities to the American people.
The president of the governing Iraqi Council, Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum, signs the provisional Constitution, 8 March 2004

IRAQUI CONSTITUTION. The president of the governing Iraqi Council, Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum, signs the provisional Constitution, 8 March 2004

As a result, the people of Iraq now have a chance to live in freedom and to move beyond the era of mass graves, torture, and repression. This transition is not without its costs, and will not be easy, but the world will be better off with a peaceful, stable, and democratic Iraq. In recognition of this new chance, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano told Vice President Cheney in January that the Holy See regretted American and other casualties in Iraq, noting that the Holy See regarded these brave soldiers as “workers for peace.”
Our efforts on behalf of human rights and human dignity in Iraq are part and parcel of the broader strategy of the United States to speak out against violations of the non-negotiable demands of human dignity and to work actively to advance freedom. In fact, the National Security Strategy of the United States makes clear that the first goal of our international engagement today is to: “stand firmly for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the absolute power of the state, free speech, freedom of worship, equal justice, respect for women, for religious and for ethnic tolerance and respect for private property.”1 This goal is also the core of the Holy See’s vigorous international engagement.
This shared desire to defend human dignity gives rise to an active dialogue on human rights. Last year, the United States sought the Holy See’s moral voice to condemn the summary executions and detentions in Cuba. The Holy See indeed did speak up, with us and with other nations that support freedom and democratic values against the arbitrary actions of the Cuban government. Similarly, the Holy See has also been quick to bring to our attention its concerns about human rights threats whether in Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, or Saudi Arabia, and to urge U.S. action to address these problems.
One of the greatest affronts to human dignity in today’s world is the crime of trafficking in persons, and it is another area in which the United States is leading the defense of human dignity. President Bush surprised many when he devoted nearly a third of his address to the UN General Assembly last September to what he termed a “humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view” of nearly a million human beings bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders. Among these victims are hundreds of thousands of women and teenage girls, who fall victim to the sex trade. To help defeat this evil, my Embassy has been actively working in partnership with the Holy See, particularly to develop prevention and rehabilitation strategies for trafficking victims. In May 2002, we sought to expand awareness of this modern day slavery by organizing with the Holy See an international conference with 400 participants from 35 countries. We were pleased to have Cardinal Tauran represent the Holy See at that event and to affirm the Pope’s commitment to defeating this evil.
As attention to this problem has increased, we have turned to ways to actively combat the problem. Working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) we have recently funded and developed a training program specifically targeted at women religious workers to provide them with anti-trafficking strategies and skills. This course is strengthening the commitment and capacity of people willing and able to combat this odious 21st century version of slavery. To further build on these initiatives, I have also shared the outcome of our conference and training session with Vatican Nuncios the world over, encouraging them – with good effect – to work with their own Bishops Conferences and local U.S. Embassies to develop their own anti-trafficking efforts.
Starvation claims a child every six seconds. To spare millions from starvation in the future, the United States is determined to help troubled nations avert famine by sharing with them the most advanced methods of crop production. Through advances in biotechnology, many farmers in developed nations are able to grow crops resistant to drought, pests and disease, friendly to the environment, with greater yields per acre. In this effort, as well, we are working closely with the Holy See, which has recognized the moral imperative of feeding the world’s hungry and has maintained a welcome openness to the potential of biotechnology to curtail famine and malnutrition. I believe this is an issue in which the Holy See needs to invest its moral authority even more forcefully. For this is not only a political and economic issue; it is a vital moral issue – a life issue – for a child who dies from starvation is just as dead as one who dies of an abortion. We want the Vatican to join us in the forefront in allowing the potential of biotech food to be shared with those in the greatest need.
The Secretary of State Colin Powell during the presentation of the annual report on the trafficking in persons, Washington, June 2003

TRAFFIC OF HUMAN BEINGS. The Secretary of State Colin Powell during the presentation of the annual report on the trafficking in persons, Washington, June 2003

AIDS claims 8,000 lives every day. It is an affront to human dignity. President Bush has termed it a “challenge to our conscience.” AIDS kills over 3 million people per year. We must act decisively to meet this humanitarian crisis. Here, too the United States is showing unprecedented global leadership as we begin to implement the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – a plan aimed at preventing AIDS on a massive scale, and treating millions who already have the disease. To make good on this commitment, the United States has pledged $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS around the world. Our Embassy is also contributing to this effort, by facilitating financial support from the Presidential Fund for the Sant’ Egidio Community’s successful anti-retroviral treatment program in Mozambique, and other priority countries in Africa. Through Catholic Relief Agencies, Americans also support the tremendous efforts of the Catholic Church worldwide to provide care and assistance to 25 percent of all victims of this dreaded health catastrophe.
As we join together to make progress on these and other issues, I believe that this still young, but maturing, diplomatic partnership between the United States and the Holy See – a relationship rooted precisely in the primacy of the human person and his freedom – will prove increasingly central to our ability to meet the many challenges of our time.
Today’s challenges are moral challenges, and they must be resolved with moral clarity and the ability to translate that clarity into action. Working together, the United States and the Holy See can help build a world of freedom, hope and peace. Already we have done much to elevate the human condition, but there is much more to do. With faith and determination, we will continue to advance the cause of human dignity. This second edition of The Long Road celebrates our past achievements and looks forward to an even brighter future. Once again, I commend Senator Andreotti and Trenta Giorni for their interest, initiative, and support in making it possible to share this story of our important partnership for human dignity.

Thank you for coming.

1 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

You will forgive me if I start by quoting former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In the two last sentences of his book Diplomacy, he writes: «The Wilsonian goals of America’s past - peace, stability, progress, and freedom for mankind - will have to be sought in a journey that has no end. Traveller, says a Spanish proverb, there are no roads. Roads are made by walking».
That is what is demonstrated, in a very eloquent way, by the book in our hands: The United States and the Holy See. The Long Road. In the first part of his book, Ambassador Jim Nicholson makes us discover – and I say “discover” because the facts reported were, till now, known only to the specialists - that historical developments and epochal initiatives are due not only to historical circumstances, but also to outstanding individuals who, with their insights, their sense of duty, their ability to grasp the sign of the times, open new pathways, and enable men to build, side by side, the roads of history.
From Giovanni Sartori who, in 1797, was the first American consul in the Papal States, to today’s Ambassador Jim Nicholson, American representatives accredited to the Holy See have followed one another, who have been capable – often in difficult conditions – of maintaining and nourishing a relationship made up of fidelity and respect. Each of these representatives, with his own personal history – human and political – made possible the setting up of diplomatic relations in 1984, and precisely in the month of April next we shall celebrate the 20th anniversary of the presentation of the letters of credential to Pope John Paul II by Ambassador William Wilson.
On a personal level, let me add a situation that has not been mentioned and that has been object of constant consultations between Washington and Vatican City: I refer to the Holy Land... The Holy See is convinced, in effect, that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the “mother” of all the crises in the Middle East
Reading this history, one sees what underpins the art of diplomacy: openness to the problems of others; consideration for what makes for the difference and specificity of the other; acceptance of the fact that each is a responsible partner; quest for and the following out of none but peaceful means in resolving difficulties; search for what is common to both parties.
All this colored by courtesy, discretion and sincerity.
In the case of the United States, this exercise has been facilitated because, as the author makes quite clear, «if sometimes the United States and the Holy See may be in disagreement on the means, they are in complete accord on the final goals: freedom, peace and the creation of opportunity» (p. 14).
Very much to the point, Jim Nicholson underlines the irreplaceable contribution of the Catholic Church in the United States in creating the climate that made it possible to reach the turning point of 1984. US Catholics were able to show that their fidelity to the Pope did not make them any less loyal to their country. The contribution of Cardinal Francis Spellman, archbishop of New York, was also determinating.
In the second part of the book, Ambassador Nicholson furnishes certain assessments of the way in which he informed his superiors on the reaction of the Holy See to the heinous attack of 11 September 2001 and to the military operation in Iraq last year.
Relevantly, he states that, if the positions were sometimes at odds, it was due «more to disagreement on the means than on the goals», thanks to the values that the two sides share: the safeguarding of human dignity, which is non-negotiable; the defense of rights, which sets limits to the absolute power of the state; the promotion of the fundamental freedoms; the desire for justice and peace.
In reference to the question of biotechnological food, he sets out a field of original bilateral collaboration, to promote not only the survival of the poor but, even more, their dignity.
On a personal level, let me add a situation that has not been mentioned and that has been the object of constant consultations between Washington and Vatican City: I refer to the Holy Land. I can testify that the matter has been at the center of all the conversations that Pope John Paul II, his Secretaries of State and their collaborators, have had with the US authorities over recent years, with special reference to the known question of the holy places of the three religions.
The Holy See is convinced, in effect, that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the “mother” of all the crises in the Middle East, and that the two sides must, without delay, and with the help of the international community, re-open dialogue and negotiations.
On a personal level, I would also like to suggest how peace in the Holy Land could transform the entire region: it would liberate energies and resources for economic development; it would strengthen civil society and the democratization of those societies; it would eliminate any reason for violent action for the extremists who feed on the desperation of the disinherited; it would promote peaceful dialogue among the religions, thus avoiding the emigration of Christians.
I can only thank Ambassador Nicholson who, through these pages, enables us to discover, through the life of a diplomat and the action of a government, the type of contribution that the Holy See, an unarmed moral power, can provide in the community of nations: encouraging trust; stressing the impelling necessity of dialogue; respecting rights, negotiating just solutions; overcoming passions and prejudices; helping the adoption of relevant measures that pave the way toward the solution of the more difficult problems; making the most of the potential for peace of religions.
These are some of the priorities that the Holy See retains its duty to encourage. The book that we are presenting this evening seems to me to demonstrate the result of the strategy I have just illustrated.
Given the precarious nature of the world today it is more that ever necessary to unite our efforts in seeking for the conditions for a more human world, and without doubt faith provides a vision of man and of renewed society, with particular motivation that can strengthen co-existence among peoples.
And, to conclude, I can do no better this evening than re-echo the words Pope John Paul II pronounced in January 2002 in Assisi: «Never again violence! Never again war! Never again terrorism! In the name of God, let every religion bring justice and peace to the world, forgiveness and life, love!»

We suffer, as in the current situation, because we are forced to look on in anguish at the leaking away of lives become casual, routine. Then we feel that there must be the possibility of giving a different shape to human relationships. And that shape is what may be called – given that the ambassador has quoted Saint Augustine, I too would like to conclude with Saint Augustine – a conception naturaliter christiana
First of all, I believe that it is laudable that when the world is so troubled, so full of problems, we have been able to devote an hour and half concerned with a positive business, that of full diplomatic relations between the US and the Holy See. A matter it was so difficulty to resolve that, as we have seen, long development in times and events was necessary. I do not have to draw conclusions. I believe it important to say two things that have emerged from what we have been told by Ambassador Nicholson and by Cardinal Tauran.
Rome is a particularly privileged city because it has a dual, even a treble diplomatic corps. In fact at the FAO, as well as to the Italian State and the Holy See, there are the representatives of foreign countries. The presence of all different nationalities enabled us to know the problems better. And in their turn enables the foreign diplomatic foreign representatives, even those who don’t have frequent contact with the tope levels of power, to grasp what is happening – and it’s not always easy – in Italy.
I would like to take up just the last point mentioned by Cardinal Tauran, that is the question of the Holy Land: it is the most sensitive point in the international situation today. A point full of difficulties. Scripture tells us that Jesus wept over his city. And he continues to weep.
The effort of a political nature, whether collective, bilateral or multilateral, must be that of seeking to create the conditions enabling passage from the co-existence to the co-habitation of the two peoples. Historians of the international sphere can perhaps today bring forward criticism of the decisions of 1948. Of the way that, probably, driven by the urgent need to relieve England of the burden of its presence there, the State of Israel and the Arab State were created. When one looks at the work of preparation, there is a certain shallowness. Perhaps if there had been more thinking towards a better understanding of what the Arab State was and that the founding of the two entities had taken place at the same time, many of the later complications could probably have been avoided. But it serves nothing to say this today.
In my judgment it is important to note, and this is my conclusion, the extremely eloquent fact of the number of the representatives of the Pope there are in the world, and thus of the representatives of the world who are here, at the Holy See. There has been a great development in diplomatic relations with some significant moments. Important moments not always assented to by everybody, because in human affairs there is always the possibility of assenting or not assenting. And, without taking anything from anybody, one has to recognize Cardinal Tauran’s great concern about some sensitive points in the international situation.
Let us look, for example, at two moments: the first, that stirred some criticism, came precisely when diplomatic relations were established with the Palestinian Authority, in expectation of the founding of the Palestinian State. It was indeed not done in a spirit of antithesis, but in the purpose of facilitating the inevitable development that was certainly to come. But not everyone understood it as such. Second: when the Holy See established diplomatic relations with Libya. For a long time to say anything about Libya was not only something polemical, but impossible. Well, we see today that the situation is changing and we are on the eve, it is no state secret, of the re-setting up of diplomatic relations between the United States and Tripoli.
So what is the conclusion? To me the conclusion seems to be this: that if we look at the development of pontifical diplomacy, we can see that it is always in the service of the quest for positive solutions that go beyond the particular historical and political moment being gone through. The political moment can change in individual countries. The life of the Church has, perhaps, the advantage of not being tied to elections, of not having legislatures that change, of not having those concerns that the civic world has and that at times determine choices.
But the important thing, that emerges both from what Ambassador Nicholson and what Cardinal Tauran have said, is that we must be in the service mankind, of sick mankind, of hungry mankind, of mankind that doesn’t have sufficient territory, mankind that feels oppressed by the lack of a conception, even minimal, even adjusted to individual areas of the world, of freedom. I believe that there is a shared task to be done precisely in this direction. And in this there is no distinction of roles among the various embassies in Rome. We are, I believe, all in the service of humanity and in a crisis we suffer without making distinctions whether it is this man who dies or his opponent. We suffer, as in the current situation, because we are forced to look on in anguish at the leaking away of lives become casual, routine. Then we feel that there must be the possibility of giving a different shape to human relationships. And that shape is what may be called – given that the ambassador has quoted Saint Augustine, I too would like to conclude with Saint Augustine – a conception naturaliter christiana.
* The text of the book was published as a supplement in two parts in the English edition of 30Days in October 2002 and in February 2004. The second edition of the entire book in English (both parts) is now being published.

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