Pope Francis formed an alliance with Vladimir Putin, an accommodation with Raul Castro and capitulated to Xi Jinping.
On Aug. 26, the pope announced his intentions for the 50th World Day of Peace to be celebrated on Jan. 1, 2017. He included “recognition of the primacy of diplomacy,” acting “within what is possible,” and having “a realistic political method.”
Two days earlier, the pontiff’s chosen Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, “remarked that it is ‘the simplicity and courage with which the pope proposes the primacy of dialogue and understanding’ that has sparked in many religious and political leaders ‘the desire to communicate with him and to get to know the actions of the Holy See and the Catholic Church worldwide better.’” Parolin is so confident that other world leaders admire Pope Francis’ “negotiations and dialogue rather than affirming truth” that he is considering creating an Office for Papal Mediation.
Pope Francis and Parolin have said that their “dialogue” with China will bring “a more fraternal world society,” “is the only way to achieve peace,” can be an “example for the world as a whole, building bridges of fraternity and communion everywhere,” would have “immense benefits for world peace, very, very big benefits,” that “the blossom [of relations with China] will flourish and bear good fruits for the good of the same China and of all the world,” and that they were “writing a page unheard of in history.”
The results of Pope Francis’ diplomacy, however, is that he “has helped to underscore Russia’s renewed standing as a global power,” in Cuba “he honored Fidel Castro while ignoring the dissidents” and his new deal with China is “a huge win for Beijing‘s soft power program.”
Pope Francis positioned himself as Putin’s ally early in his pontificate. Although the massacre of civilians had been ongoing since the day he was elected, the pontiff held a peace rally for Syria only after Pres. Obama proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Putin had said it was “utter nonsense” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons and he “warned the U.S. against launching military action in Syria, stating that Russia has ‘plans’ on how it would react if such a scenario unfolded.”
Pope Francis wrote a letter to Putin, host of the G-20 summit held on the eve of his Sept. 7, 2013, rally, “urging world leaders to oppose a military intervention in Syria.” During the rally, the pope “spoke out against an attack in Syria.”
“Moscow was pleased after Francis opposed a proposed U.S.-led military intervention in Syria, a key Russian ally.”
On Feb. 4, 2015, the pontiff called “the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists ‘fratricidal.” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, said the pope’s statement was “particularly painful for all the people in Ukraine …. This conflict, said Shevchuk, is the result of what he called a foreign invasion.” With roughly 6 million adherents, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine is the largest of the 22 Eastern Rite Churches in communion with the pope. It is the second largest religion in the country after the Christian orthodox and three and a half times larger than the Roman Catholic Church.
Adding insult to injury, when Shevchuk and other Ukrainian prelates met with Pope Francis two weeks later, he told them “to stay out of political debates and focus their energies on caring for their people and in reaffirming Christian values.” By this time, “the United Nations said that more than 5,665 people are believed to have died in the fighting.”
Putin was “not welcome at the June 7-8, 2015, G7 summit meeting thanks to his government’s continued incursions into Ukraine’s territory. But two days after the meeting of Western powers in Germany, the Russian leader had his second meeting with Pope Francis.” According to the Vatican, “Pope Francis stressed the ‘need to commit oneself in a sincere and great effort to achieve peace,’ adding that both men ‘agreed on the importance of reconstructing a climate of dialogue and that all sides commit themselves to implementing the Minsk accords’ (a ceasefire that lasted only a few months). Also stressed was the need to address the serious humanitarian situation in Ukraine. Regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, both men discussed the situation in Iraq and Syria.”
Between his first and second meeting with Putin, “some 1.2 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced according to the United Nations humanitarian office [while] Pope Francis is working to build diplomatic relations with Russia … especially to advance some of the Vatican’s other diplomatic interests.”
A meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill was scheduled for Feb. 12, 2016, in Cuba.
The meeting “could not happen without a green light from Putin, diplomats and analysts say, and he may be one the beneficiaries. Putin has aligned himself closely with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), making Friday’s two-hour private meeting not just a religious event but politically charged as well, especially when Russia is at odds with the West over Ukraine and Syria. ‘Putin clearly sees the value of his relationship with the ROC and the ROC’s relationship with the pope,’ said a diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
Feb. 15 The Economist: “Did the pope just kiss Putin’s ring? Russia wants its people to believe that Western republics are not as hostile as their leaders. Pope Francis just helped.” The meeting with Kirill “is a diplomatic victory” for Russia’s government.
Francis made clear in his interview before the meeting that on certain issues he agrees with Mr Putin and disagrees with America and its allies ….
The meeting with Francis has helped to underscore Russia’s renewed standing as a global power. Mr Putin’s spokesman called it “a mutual step forward” between Russia and the West …. For Russia’s government, “it is a diplomatic victory.”
The joint declaration issued after the meeting hewed close to the Kremlin’s positions on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine ….
Francis has been sensitive toward Mr Putin’s view of the conflict [in the Ukraine]. The joint declaration deplores “hostility” in Ukraine, but omits any mention of Russia’s role, casting it as an internal struggle.
Many Ukrainians saw Mr Putin’s hand at work. Miroslav Marinovich, vice-rector of the Catholic University in Lviv, said that the sections relating to Ukraine were “obviously written in the Kremlin.” Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, went even further. The members of his church, he said, felt “betrayed by the Vatican.”
“At the moment, Russia’s diplomatic situation is isolated. Relations with Turkey are very poor … Many in the international community oppose Russia’s strong support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Facing this diplomatic isolation, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis in Rome two times in three years …. In the end, ‘the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis shows that Russia is open, and that the Pope is close and sensitive to Russia,’ a source close to the patriarchate said.”
The day after the meeting, Slovenia-born Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic was appointed as the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Specialized Agencies in Geneva as well as the World Trade Organization. Jurkovic was the pope’s ambassador to Russia and Uzbekistan since 2011. Given Jurkovic’s experience, “some believe his appointment aims to assist in the rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Moscow.”
“Russian operation in Syria is our salvation,” Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, the vicar of Aleppo, stated after the pope’s meeting with Kirill. Khazen was appointed by Pope Francis in 2013. “Russia makes a very positive impact by stimulating the negotiations process, and promotes dialogue between various Syrian groups,” Khazen said
In July 2016, new laws were enacted in Russia banning religious proselytizing outside of specially designated places. “The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom condemned the new laws [which will] buttress the Russian government’s war against human rights and religious freedom.” Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and chair of the commission, said after the measures were passed. “They will make it easier for Russian authorities to repress religious communities, stifle peaceful dissent, and detain and imprison people.”
At the time of his meeting with Pope Francis, Patriarch Kirill was in Cuba at the invitation of Pres. Castro “to celebrate the historic ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and the island nation, a result of Cuba’s historical alliance with Russia.” It was reported on Oct. 7, 2016, that “Russia is considering plans to restore military bases in Vietnam and Cuba that had served as pivots of Soviet global military power during the Cold War.”
“We now know that the meeting with Kirill in Cuba was already on the Pope Francis’s agenda” when he visited Cuba in September 2015, “as well as being on that of Raúl Castro and Putin.” The previous May, Castro had met in Moscow with Putin and Kirill and then flew directly to a private meeting with Pope Francis.
At the end of that audience, Castro “wished to say ‘Thank you’ to the Holy Father for his active role in the development of the improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States of America.” At a later meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Castro said, “If the pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again and I will return to the Catholic Church.” (He hasn’t.)
The media touted Pope Francis as having played a “crucial role,” a “key role” and “brokering the restoration of relations between Cuba and the U.S.” But when asked directly by a reporter, Pope Francis said, “The process between Cuba and the United States … happened by itself. It was the goodwill of the two countries and the merit is theirs for doing this.”
Yes. In 2009, Pres. Obama “helped reunite divided Cuban families, improved communication between the countries and helped humanitarian aid to the island.” In 2011, he took action “allowing many Americans to travel there for the first time and increasing the amounts that they can invest in the island.” In 2010, Pres. Castro “announced sweeping reforms to open up the island’s economy, allowing more Cubans to own their own businesses and to buy and sell property.” In 2012, “Cuba passed a new immigration law that lifted long-standing travel restrictions; it also permitted Cubans living in Miami to visit without overt stigma or sanction.” In December 2014, “after five decades of Cold War enmity and eighteen months of secret talks, the United States and Cuba announced that they had agreed to normalize relations.”
Under Pope Francis, the Catholic Church is accommodating the Castro regime. Two editors of a Catholic magazine promoting “debate on political issues” stated in their 2014 resignation letter that “they left not because of government pressure but due to pressure from people inside the Church hierarchy who did not want the Church to get involved in politics.”
Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega “has been widely criticized – both within Cuba and abroad – for his passive and collaborationist attitude toward the government.” Two months before Pope Francis’ September 2015 trip to Cuba, a blogger denounced Ortega, “who, if aware of the daily concerns of our people, has no will to address them. To remain silent before irrefutable facts is unheard-of.” There are still political prisoners and “new prisoners of conscience are being added to the list.” The repression of active dissidents “is actually being stepped up as greater challenges are posed to the authorities. Faced with such truths, the cardinal responds with silence.”
Berta Soler, leader of Women in White, a group of wives and other relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents “met with Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square in May 2013 and sent a letter to the pontiff through the nunciature and through friends. She asked the Pope: ‘When you come to Cuba could you listen to us even for a few minutes?'”
Just ahead of the papal visit, “the dissident leader reported arrests of the Women in White and other opposition activists. [E]xcessive force was used in some arrests …. She said that the Castro government is assembling ‘paramilitary mobs organized and financed by (the regime) to physically and verbally attack us.'”
The United States’ UN ambassador tweeted criticism of Cuban authorities in advance of Pope Francis’ visit.
Ambassador Samantha Power’s tweet: HR activists, @DamasBlanco & even homeless reportedly detained before @Pontifex visit; disappointing business as usual for #Cuban govt
Opposition groups in recent days have been reporting increased detentions of dissidents.
Cuban officials are offering a day’s pay, snacks and transportation to encourage state workers to line the pontiff’s route from the airport to the Papal Ambassador’s home. University students also have been recruited.
A respected Vatican reporter summarized Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba:
[H]omage to the Castro brothers. Pressed by journalists on the plane heading for Washington, Francis said no, no meeting with dissidents was planned, and he kept to the program.
And yet this was not something unthinkable from the start. A few weeks earlier, the Cuban regime had allowed American secretary of state John Kerry, visiting Cuba to reopen the embassy, to meet with roughly thirty dissidents.
The Castro police catalogued and screened everyone coming to Mass with Francis in Havana and the other cities, and peppered the crowds with informants.
In the nine discourses he gave in Cuba, Pope Francis used the word “freedom” only once, requesting it for the Church on the island together with “all the means necessary.” He paid repeated public homage to the Castro brothers and gave a friendly and admiring account of his private conversation with Fidel.
The pope’s trip to Cuba “raised great expectations, even as it antagonized a great many Cuban Americans who regard the Castros as anathema. Alas, these hopes evaporated quickly.” Independent journalist Yoani Sánchez “remarked that she could not understand how this pope could have ignored the vital issues of today’s Cuba during his visit. How could he honor Fidel Castro with an official visit, while ignoring the dissidents? Why couldn’t the pope who was so outspoken during his visit to the United States also speak out while in Cuba?”
Pope Francis is “the catalyst behind the latest push for a deal with China.”
In August 2014, the pope said, “I think of the great Chinese sages, theirs is a history of knowledge, of wisdom” and that he wanted to go to China “Tomorrow! Oh, yes!” The next month, Pope Francis issued an invitation to Xi Jinping to come to the Vatican and said he was willing to go to China.
In December 2014, “[The Chinese] know I’m available either to receive someone, or to go to China. They know,” the pope reiterated.
When the pontiff was in the U.S. in September 2015 following his trip to Cuba, he and Xi were in New York the same day. “The pope wanted to meet Xi and this message was communicated clearly to China.” He has not met Xi nor been invited to China.
In every year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, China is identified as a government which has “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom … including torture, degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons,” according to the U.S. State Department’s annual Religious Freedom report.
A case against China, filed in 2013 with an international tribunal, was settled on July 12. “The ruling paints a picture of an environmentally destructive, dangerously aggressive government that has no legal jurisdiction for its actions.”
Regardless, Pope Francis told Xi Jinping, “The world looks to this great wisdom of yours,” in a February 2016 interview and that “the world looks to China’s wisdom and civilization.” And again, “It is necessary to enter into dialogue with China, because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history.” The pope continued, “And the Catholic Church … has the duty to respect [this civilization] with a capital ‘R.’”
All religion was outlawed when the Communist Party took control of China in 1949. The government later decided to accommodate five religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism – by putting them under control of the Communist Party. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) was established but an underground Church remained loyal to the pope. Both groups of Catholics have their own bishops. Those in the CPCA were appointed by the government; those in the underground Church were appointed by the pope. Until now, both the Vatican and China have maintained their sole right to appoint (ordain) bishops. No pope until now has ever recognized the CPCA as a legitimate form of Catholicism.
The Chinese government had suggested in 2010 what would later be referred to as the “China model,” i.e. they select the nominees for episcopal appointment and the pope could choose from among them. No modern civil government has been granted this authority by a pope until now. In the two years following 2010, more CPCA bishops were ordained without the pope’s consent. Pope Benedict XVI’s response was to declare that the illegitimately ordained bishops had been automatically excommunicated.
The reports since May:
June 11: “[T]he Vatican is reportedly willing to accept new bishop candidates [who have] the approval of the Chinese government.”
July 14: “The pope is preparing to pardon eight bishops ordained by the CPCA and officially excommunicated …. The Vatican hopes a pardon would be interpreted by China as a goodwill gesture.”
Aug. 5: The current Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, formally announced: “Fortunately, after working for many years on this issue, the Catholic Church has gradually gained the reconsideration of the Chinese government, which is now willing to reach an understanding with the Holy See on the question of the appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church in China and seek a mutually acceptable plan …. The Apostolic See has the right to choose from the recommended list the candidates it considers as most suitable.”
Other Catholics did not view this as “fortunate.”
“Beijing’s proposal is limited to complete recognition by the Holy See for all official bishops (even illegitimate and excommunicated bishops), without any mention of the unofficial bishops and those in prison …. Is the Vatican ignoring them in negotiations to appease their Chinese counterparts?” asked Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.
A Chinese priest, already detained “many times,” said, “Rome may betray us, but I won’t join a Church which is controlled by the Communist Party … I will resign.” Another member of the underground Church declared, “If the independent church is no longer allowed, I will just go home and pray.” The director of ChinaAid regretted that this capitulation by Pope Francis would “be like a father’s betrayal of his own children … because the move will legitimize the Communist Party’s persecution, past, present and perhaps future.”
An op-ed by the British Catholic Herald written in April 2016: “[A] compromise with the Chinese government whereby they propose bishops which the Vatican then approves would be a huge defeat for the autonomy of the Church and for religious liberty, quite apart from throwing the faithful Catholics of China under the bus.”
Michael Sainsbury, an author specializing in the Far East, wrote on Sept. 16:
It is increasingly obvious to those who understand China that a deal with the Vatican … is part of an overarching, multi-faceted program of soft power projection by the Communist Party. [All soft power programs] are designed to convey a kinder, softer China to cover up the reality.
Under its legal system, China executes more of its citizens than any other nation on earth …. In doing a deal with Beijing, the Vatican would automatically expose itself to accusations of being complicit with such practices.
As the world is now seeing, China’s power projects can be far more successful than they should be. Its invasion, control and effective colonization of Tibet has been brutal but is complete.
With China’s move to colonize large swathes of the South China Sea, the world has become increasingly aware of what it is doing: building islands in the sea to aid its rapid militarization of the region – despite express promise that it would not do so ….
A deal with the Vatican is a huge win for Beijing‘s soft power program.
The Pope’s Skewed Grasp of History
“This is what happened in Yalta and we saw the results,” Pope Francis said in February 2016. “The aim at Yalta was to ‘carve up the cake … dividing humanity and culture into small pieces.’” The pope was referring to the 1945 conference where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met to discuss ending World War II and planning for a post-war world. The pope demonstrated no comprehension of the war’s catastrophic humanitarian tragedy – 50 to 80 million killed plus untold millions more injured, dislocated, starved and the ensuing deaths from these other causes – which motivated the world leaders to make the best deal possible at the time.
”The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to the concentration camps, like Auschwitz, to kill the Jews, and also the Christians, and also the Roma, also the homosexuals,” Pope Francis said. “Tell me, why didn’t they bomb those railroad routes?”
Because “historians disagree over whether a precise enough military strike would have been possible or effective in stopping people dying in the gas chambers.” Also, Roosevelt believed that the surest way to stop the killing of all innocent civilians was to use his limited resources in a way which would defeat Hitler as quickly and decisively as possible.
This accusation against the Allies has been voiced often by churchmen in deflecting criticism away from Pope Pius XII’s role during the war. Other than Germany, every other fascist nation and movement in Europe was backed by the Church (see clerical-fascism).
Pope Francis has refused to open the Vatican archives for World War II. Regardless, beginning in the mid 1990’s, other countries released their wartime records proving Pius XII’s fascist sympathies. Pius XII knew (Phayer, Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War p. 219) about the barbaric slaughter of Serbs, Jews and Roma (estimated at 700,000 including more than 74,000 children) by the Catholic Ustase in Croatia and still supported their leader, Anton Pavelic. (Phayer, p. 219) Pius XII also knew about (Phayer, pp. 196-199) and supported both rat lines helping fascist war criminals escape prosecution.(Phayer, p. 233)
“The Vatican was able to use deposits of stolen Nazi funds to finance these [ratlines] …. It would have been perfectly possible to channel funds to escaped war criminals in South America from Vatican Swiss bank accounts through the branches of Sudameris,” a South American bank in which the Vatican was heavily invested and “which in the eyes of the Allies was simply an Axis Bank.” (Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy p. 202)
It is established history that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church supported the right wing military junta during the Dirty War (1976-83). The prelates knew that thousands – an estimated 30,000 Argentines – were murdered since they maintained many of the records.
Four months before his election as pope, Cardinal Bergoglio and his fellow prelates issued a statement: Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, absolving the Church. “We have the word and testimony of the bishops who preceded us about whom we cannot know how much they personally knew of what was happening. They tried to do everything in their power for the good of all, according to their conscience and considered judgment.” The bishops equated the “suffering” from “state terrorism” with “the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence,” referencing the quickly-crushed left wing opposition. The bishops conclude: “For our part, we have cooperated with the law when we have been asked for information which we have. In addition, we encourage those with information on the whereabouts of stolen children or know clandestine burial sites, to recognize their moral obligation to go to the relevant authorities.”
Neither Pope Francis nor the Argentine bishops have provided the Church’s records.
Pope Francis’ “closest collaborator,” Cardinal Parolin, referred to the 19th century “Unequal Treaties” in an August 2016 speech: “This was the treaty with which Western powers – chiefly England, the U.S. and France – had forcibly imposed their colonial supremacy on China.” Parolin neglected to note that, “U.S. diplomat John Ward sought, and finally achieved through diplomatic negotiations, an exchange of treaty ratifications in 1859.” Or that “Russia signed a separate agreement, the Treaty of Aigun (May 16, 1858), by which Russia would have jurisdiction over the lands north of the Amur River from its junction with the Argun River to the Tatar Strait.”
In May 2016, Pope Francis criticized Western powers for attempting to export democracy to Iraq and Libya without paying attention to local political cultures.
He has never criticized Russia’s role in the Ukraine, Syria or human rights violations.
He is “silent over the victims of the Castro regime, the anguished cry of a Cuban exile. Not a word for the thousands of Cubans swallowed up by the sea while fleeing from tyranny. No call for the release of political prisoners.”
No acknowledgement from the pope or Parolin that “China is a country with an appalling human rights record and more specifically a country with a shocking record on religious freedom” or that “there is nothing remotely peaceful about Beijing’s rise to power … Since the international ruling on the South China Sea in July China has notably stepped up its presence in the disputed zone.”
Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen responded to Pope Francis’ capitulation to China, but the same could be said for his “diplomacy” with Russia and Cuba with only slight modification.
Ostpolitik [for secular governments] makes sense, because here there is the possibility of some bargaining, trading economic gain for political concessions. But what do we have to bargain with those who only understand reasons of money and power? Can we sell the only thing we have: the spiritual power? ….
We must face the fact that the communist government is a true dictatorship! In a dictatorship regime there is no compromise, there is only total submission, slavery and humiliation. The Chinese communists, after they have killed hundreds of thousands, maybe they don’t need to kill so many nowadays. But the “state of violence” reigns, total denial of most basic human rights.
Who doesn’t know that today Chinese communists are ever more arrogant abroad and oppressive at home? … How can you reasonably hope in the success of the dialogue?
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)