All eyes on Rome: The political audacity of Pope Francis

Global stage

When the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents meet at the Vatican on Sunday, it will be another sign of how Pope Francis has returned the Vatican to the global stage to a degree not seen since John Paul II’s shuttle pilgrimages helped end the Cold War, writes The Washington Post.

The upcoming Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions.

Reviewing the trip on his return, the Pope himself might have done the best job of formulating a 'Francis Doctrine' for the 21st century, telling an audience in St Peter’s Square that peace is not mass-produced but is instead 'handcrafted' every day by individuals.

'Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,' Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organisation active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last Summer. 'We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See.'

Yet this Argentine Pope — who intentionally took the name of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of peace — is also wading into a geopolitical arena that is in many respects much more complicated than the binary, East-West rivalry that confronted his predecessor Pope John Paul II.

The end of Soviet communism was almost miraculous in its suddenness, and it left the impression that a charismatic pope could change (or at least shape) the course of human events. In addition, those events capped a decade of the Catholic Church playing a crucial role in ousting longtime dictators in the Philippines and Haiti, and serving as a powerful voice for ending apartheid in South Africa and promoting human rights across Latin America.

Yet the 'new world order' heralded by the end of the Cold War instead became a new world disorder. The Berlin Wall crumbled, yes. But now other barriers have gone up.

Francis’ focus on personal diplomacy may be the best approach for an era of personalised conflict.

His experience of poverty and structural inequality in his homeland has influenced his view that economic injustice is at the heart of the world’s conflicts.

It’s the lens he used to explain his ideas on peacemaking in his major document from last year, 'The Joy of the Gospel.' To promote peace in this context, Francis said last December, diplomacy should 'promote the culture of encounter.'

Read full article: The Audacity of Pope: The 'Francis Doctrine' puts the Vatican back on the world stage (The Washington Post)

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