ROME – During his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday, the Vatican’s number two official presented “the best credentials” for a papal envoy, inaugurating a four-day international summit of Vatican ambassadors.

“We must be the first guardians and observers” of civil and canon law, said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, during his homily June 12.

“Our work as representatives of the Holy See must always be exemplary and our conduct crystal clear,” he said and added, “our service and all the juridical systems in the world are (or should be) aimed at the human good and the good of all humans: Toward the respect of his rights, the building of a fairer society, the living together in peace.”

The Mass launched the beginning of a summit of 103 papal representatives, 98 of them Apostolic Nuncios and 5 permanent observers. The June 12-15 meeting at the Vatican was called by Pope Francis and is similar to other meetings of Vatican diplomats he convened in 2013 and 2016.

Drawing from the day’s Gospel, Parolin underlined that papal envoys must be the symbols of the “new alliance with Jesus” and despite the fact that they occupy “a very important ministry” they are vowed to “poverty and limit.”

“Not only must the pastoral approach of the Holy Father, whom we represent in the states in which we are accredited, be present in us, but our heart of pastors and bishops must identify ever more with the Gospel and with the New Alliance of Jesus.”

On Thursday, the Vatican representatives will have a private audience with the pope and meet the heads of various Vatican and Curial departments as well as the ambassadors from other countries to the Holy See. On the last day of the meeting, June 15, another 46 retired apostolic nuncios will be present for a Mass in the Domus Sanctae Martae and a prayer in the Sistine Chapel.

RELATED: Gathering of papal ambassadors a sign of Vatican’s diplomatic touch

Missing from the list of attendees is the former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who made headlines last August when he released an open letter in which he called on Francis to resign for allegedly disregarding restrictions placed on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Alessandro Gisotti, the interim head of the Vatican’s press office, confirmed to Crux that Viganò will not be at the meeting.

Incidentally, The Washington Post released on Tuesday the first extended interview with the archbishop since he first went public with his accusations. The interview is comprised of 8,000 words answering nearly 40 questions sent via email.

Viganò stated once more that his public accusations against the pope were made “out of love for the Church,” which he said, “is going through one of the most turbulent moments in her history.”

“The signs I see are truly ominous,” the archbishop wrote. “Not only is Pope Francis doing close to nothing to punish those who have committed abuse, he is doing absolutely nothing to expose and bring to justice those who have, for decades, facilitated and covered up the abusers.”

As an example, he cited Cardinal Donald Wuerl who headed the diocese of Washington until the pope accepted his resignation in October 2018, after the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the Viganò letter cast doubt over his handling of sexual abuse cases.

Viganò also criticized another papal ally, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who spearheaded a Vatican summit on the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults in February, which saw Catholic leaders from across the globe convene to address the clerical sex abuse crisis but that the former nuncio tagged as “pure ostentation.”

“Pope Francis’s choice of Cardinal Cupich as a leader of the event was itself disturbing,” Viganò wrote, mentioning a controversial interview that the cardinal had in August with the NBC affiliate where he referred to the nuncio’s allegations as a “rabbit hole” that the pope should avoid to focus on “a bigger agenda.”

RELATED: Cupich dismisses Viganò claims as a ‘rabbit hole’

Viganò was asked about a rift between the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), after the Vatican intervened to stop the bishops from voting on measures that would provide accountability for prelates last November.

“The shutdown was wholly unjustified in itself but proceeded from panic,” he said. “The American bishops were exercising their legitimate duties and responsibilities, and one wonders how a pope who calls for ‘synodality’ could carry out such an intrusion.”

The U.S. episcopacy is convening this week, June 11-14 in Baltimore, Maryland, to tackle the “unfinished business” of abuse guidelines with the hopes of enacting new standards for bishop accountability.

RELATED: U.S. bishops face tough questions on new abuse investigation proposals

Since August, the archbishop has been releasing statements from an undisclosed location, reinforcing his position and defending himself from questions regarding his motives. Francis has responded mostly with silence, stating that he “knew nothing” about the McCarrick case.

“The pope’s persistent silence, which has become more and more deafening, ultimately bears witness to the truth of my testimony,” Viganò said.

“The bottom line is this: Pope Francis is deliberately concealing the McCarrick evidence,” he added.

While the former nuncio may have a lot to say about Francis, in the interview he raises the possibility that the thorough investigation that he has repeatedly asked for may also shed light on the lack of judgment or action of his predecessors.

“I sincerely wish that all documents, if they have not already been destroyed, would be released,” he said. “It is entirely possible that this would harm the reputation of Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, but that is not a good reason for not seeking the truth. Benedict XVI and John Paul II are human beings and may well have made mistakes. If they did, we want to know about them.”

Though a former nuncio, questions persist whether or not Viganò has “the best credentials.” One thing is for sure, the former nuncio shows no signs of backing down.

“The crisis is about the fact that a corrupt ‘mafia’ has taken control of many institutions of the Church, from the top down, and is exploiting the Church and the faithful for its own immoral purposes,” he wrote.

Follow Claire Giangravè on Twitter: @ClaireGiangrave

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