ROME – Pope Francis’s right-hand man and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has reiterated in a new interview that “time is needed to judge” the Trump administration, and called on the United States to uphold its responsibilities on “new climate challenges.”
Parolin did not directly reference Trump’s announcement in June that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, a policy that to some extent now seems in flux after ambiguous statements by Trump at the July G20 summit.
At the time it was announced, the decision to withdraw was widely criticized in the Vatican, with one official describing it as a “slap in the face” to Pope Francis, with whom Trump had just met and who helped inspire the Paris accord with his eco-encyclical Laudato Si‘.
“Time is needed to judge,” Parolin said when asked about Trump. “You cannot be in a rush. A new administration that is so different and unique, and not only for political reasons, compared to the previous ones, will need time to find its own balance.
Any judgement now, he continued, never mentioning Trump by name, “is hurried, even if sometimes the show of uncertainty itself can surprise.”
Speaking about Venezuela, Parolin, a former papal envoy in the country, said he feels “sad” seeing the ongoing crisis, and defined the Church’s diplomatic efforts as an attempt to help countries “return to dialogue and stop being torn apart” by hate.
The cardinal’s words came in an interview with Italian newspaper Il Sole. It was published on Thursday, both in Italian and English. The interview took place ahead of Parolin’s trip to Moscow, where he’s scheduled to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Speaking about Russia, Parolin challenged the premise of the question posed to him, which suggested a “return” of Moscow to the international scene and being quite “aggressive” about it.
The Vatican’s secretary of state said that there has been a “period of uncertainty” around the position of Russia on many issues, but argued that as a country, “even in the moments of greatest difficulty,” it never left the international scene.
Parolin also said that at a time in which the differences between Russia and the West are often underlined, as if they were “different worlds, each with their own values, their own interests, a national or transnational pride, and even their own concept of international law,” the challenge is to aid a better understanding between the parties.
This understanding, he continued, does not mean one position yielding to the other, but a “patient, constructive, frank, and at the same time, respectful dialogue.”
Such dialogue becomes even more urgent on matters that are at the origin of current conflicts on those that could escalate in their tension, Parolin said, calling for the “question of peace” to be put above any national or partisan interests.
“Here there can be no victors or defeated,” he said. “Indulging your own specific interests, which is one of the characteristics in this age of return to nationalisms, distracts you from seeing how the possibility of a catastrophe is not averted on its own. I am convinced that it is part of the Holy See’s mission to insist on this aspect.”
Speaking about the Church’s diplomatic efforts, Parolin described it as one of peace, that doesn’t have political, economic or ideological interests. This, he argued, gives it greater freedom to “represent the reasoning of one side to the other side.”
His visit to Russia comes almost a year after he was in Ukraine, currently at war with Moscow after the invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea by the Kremlin.
Parolin said that his visit to Ukraine was an attempt to bring the “solidarity” of the Church, with Pope Francis opening the path by calling on European Churches to make a collection to aid the country. During that trip, he got close to Donbass, where aid was distributed among displaced people regardless of their nationality or politics.
“The Holy See does not seek anything for itself,” he said. “It is not present here and then there to not lose on any side. Its attempt is one that is humanly difficult but evangelically unavoidable, so that nearby worlds return to dialogue and stop being torn apart, by hate even before the bombs.”
Before being handpicked by Pope Francis to serve as the Vatican’s top diplomat, Parolin was the apostolic nuncio, meaning the papal representative, in Venezuela. Asked about the country, he said that “Faced with the dramatic scenario that we know … I feel immense pain.”
The scenario is one in which 90 people, most of them young and even minors, have been killed by the repression of President Nicolas Maduro. There’s lack of fundamental goods, such as food and medicine, and according to Parolin, there’s also a lack “of prospects for a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis.”
As the prelate underlines in the interview, the conflict could escalate in the coming weeks, because of Maduro’s decision to re-write the constitution.
“I pray to God that, in such tragic predicaments, he inspires in the political authorities of Caracas, and in all the key figures – a lot of wisdom, the capacity to listen to those who just want the best for the Venezuelans, above all the poorest people, and courage to favor peace and national reconciliation,” Parolin said.
Regarding Francis, who’s referred to the crisis in many opportunities, and the Holy See, the cardinal said that both are always available to help.
“I strongly hope that the voice of the pope leaves an impression on hearts and minds and really prevents this dear country from falling into the abyss.”
Speaking about Europe, Parolin said that the continent has an “irreplaceable responsibility,” and that when it becomes indifferent, as it has “in the case of immigration, you give up the possible goodness.”
He also warned against nationalism, saying it ends up “emptying Europe of its values and reasons.”
Speaking about China and Asia in a broader sense, Parolin said that the Church asks the right to “freely profess one’s faith” and that this has always been the aim of the Church: “bring God to man and man to God.”
“Catholics wish to live their faith serenely in their respective countries like good citizens, working toward the positive development of the national community,” he said.
Parolin also said that the “path of dialogue” started by some countries in the region should be welcomed, because dialogue itself “is a positive fact.”
“We face it in a spirit of healthy realism, knowing well that the destiny of humanity is, above all, in the hands of God,” he said.