Perhaps the timing was purely coincidental. But a day after he was credited with helping to broker thehistoric diplomatic breakthrough betweenCuba and the United States, Pope Francisbegan his Thursday morning by greeting a new crop of envoys to the Vatican, and offering some advice.
“The work of an ambassador lies in small steps, small things, but they always end up making peace, bringing closer the hearts of people, sowing brotherhood among people,” he said. “This is your job, but with little things, tiny things.”
Yet if the Vatican has long practiced a methodical, discreet brand of diplomacy, what has changed under Francis — or has been restored — is a vision of diplomatic boldness, a willingness to take risks and insert the Vatican into diplomatic disputes, especially where it can act as an independent broker.
The comparison now cited by many analysts is with Pope John Paul II. If the two popes are not always simpatico on ideology, both men have understood how to use the papacy in a global media age and use the power of personal biography to help position the Vatican as a neutral broker.
Just as John Paul, the first Polish pope, had a unique credibility as a voice against Communism in Eastern Europe, so, too, does Francis — the first Latin American pope — now benefit from a unique credibility in the developing world.
“There are elements to Francis that are John Paul-esque,” said Francis Campbell, a former British ambassador to the Holy See, adding that Francis had embraced the bully pulpit provided by the papacy. “The papacy is one of the world’s great opinion formers. Whether people agree with it or disagree with it, it has a huge voice.”
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