“Celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, along with Pope Francis’ recent visit to Sweden, are the object of broad debate. The relations between Christian Churches is an important theme today, which influences political decisions across many EU Countries”: Jan Tombinski, Polisj is the new head of the EU delegation to the Holy See. He was recently appointed to this prestigious post at the Vatican. The ambassador told SIR: “In a multi-religious and multi-ecclesial Europe the EU wants to take part in the dialogue between faiths.”
What are the main themes in the cooperation between the EU and the Holy See?
The European Union is present in the world with her diplomatic missions and her political tools through initiatives for the defence of the fundamental rights of man; thus cooperation with the Holy See is sought especially in these fields.
The primary, fundamental right of every person is the right to life
Cooperation is therefore focused in particular on all aspects connected with the implementation of peace, namely, with the resolution of world crises. A second area regards actions ensuring the introduction of conflict-prevention procedures – aimed at the peaceful settlement of the root causes of armed conflicts – within international legislation.
In the light of the problems faced by contemporary society, what specific themes did you discuss during your meeting with the Pope?
The audience with the Pope on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters of Credence was not focused on politics in particular. However, we did discuss, for example, the possibility of cooperation regarding the introduction of a universal moratorium on the death penalty on an international scale. With the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, and the President of the Commission Justice and Peace, Cardinal Turkson, we discussed how to support the settlement of internal conflicts in countries like Venezuela and the Central African Republic. The Holy See is also currently committed in fostering dialogue between the two separate territories of Sudan, the north and south. The EU’s approach is to develop conflict prevention strategies with peaceful means, avoiding conflicts that could lead to the outbreak of wars. For this, the EU wishes to be in daily contact with the Vatican also to draw on the Holy See’s knowledge of various international situations. At the beginning of my mission I seek to build a network of relations also with those organisms, which, like the St Egidio Community, operate in connection with the Vatican, for an exchange of views on contemporary society.
During his trip to Italy past January the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, was received in audience by Pope Francis. Would it be right to say that the attitude of the EU towards the Islamic-majority Country has changed over the past year?
The EU has played an important role in the colloquiums regarding the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran was the object of the colloquiums of the Secretary General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmid, during her trip to Rome at the beginning of October, launching a regular dialogue between the EU and the Holy See on issues pertaining to global politics. We are now at the initial stages of actions leading to the definition of various projects. We have already defined the areas in which we see the highest possibilities of cooperation. Moreover, such cooperation is not confined to international issues alone. In fact it also involves broader issues such as the question of ethics in public action. Marianne Thyssen, member of the European Commission for Employment, Social Affairs and the mobility of workers, will be a keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Iustitia et pax Commission in November on ethics and responsibility in the business world, leading to actions aimed at the uprooting of poverty and social exclusion. Indeed, such initiatives are part and parcel of the socials policies of the European Union.
The EU has been accused of failing to provide effective response to the problem of migrants arriving in Europe, while Pope Francis reiterates his appeals to help them…
In the last year more than 140 thousand people were rescued in the Mediterranean thanks to EU operations. Therefore saying that the European Union does nothing does not correspond to the facts. The migration issue was one of the themes discussed in the meeting with Cardinal Parolin. It’s a question of shared responsibility. Other players are equally responsible for the root causes of the critical situation that force people to emigrate from Africa and Asia. From this perspective shared responsibility is extremely important. Moreover, the EU is drawing conclusions from what has happened over the past 10 years and she intends to allocate considerable funds, previously channelled into investments in EU Countries, into investments outside EU borders.
This will promote stabilization, ensuring better living conditions in the migrants’ Countries of departure.
Today climate change is also a cause of migration waves. Also in this case we ought to acknowledge our joint responsibility towards the environment and natural resources. In the Encyclical “Laudato si’” Pope Francis highlights the religious foundation of political responsibility towards nature and towards all those elements that affect our living conditions.