VATICAN CITY — New Vatican Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin said Pope Francis’ reform efforts are not revolutionary, but stem from a fidelity to Christ and continuity with foundational Church teachings.
In an interview with the Venezuelan daily El Universal, he said that the Pope’s vision does not include “returning to the past” in external ways, but “returning to the fundamental principles of the Church.”
Archbishop Parolin, who was until now the apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, will assume his new post as the Vatican’s secretary of state on Oct. 15, succeeding Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In his remarks to the paper, he said he wanted “to underscore the question of continuity because, at times, it seems (and I don’t know if I am exaggerating) that Pope Francis is going to revolutionize and change everything.”
However, changes in the Church “cannot endanger the Church’s essence, which has a continuity with the history that comes from its foundation by Jesus Christ.”
“The Church could never change to the point of completely adapting herself to the world. If she did and lost herself in it, she would no longer be fulfilling her mission to be salt and light for all,” he stated.
In response to suggestions during talks leading up to the papal conclave in March, Pope Francis has appointed eight cardinals to advise him on governing the Church and reforming the Curia.
Eight cardinals, representing all the continents, will serve to advise the Pope in “the government of the universal Church” and will “study a plan for revising” the Curia, the Vatican announced April 13.
The group will hold its first meeting Oct. 1-3, though the Pope is already in touch with all the appointed cardinals.
Archbishop Parolin also said that before entertaining any ideas of a “Vatican III,” the Church “ought to look to the Second Vatican Council, which established directives so the Church could fulfill her mission in today’s world.”
The Church Is a Communion
“It is important to apply them, as the previous popes have done, each according to his own focus,” he said, referring to the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II.
The new Vatican secretary of state also said that “the Church is a very special structure, and the political categories used to analyze the realities of the state cannot be automatically applied.”
“This is not a monarchy or a democracy, in the formal sense of the word,” he said, but, rather, “a communion in which there are different responsibilities, the ultimate of which falls upon the Pope. He is in communion with everyone else, and there is no pope without communion.”
Asked about the issue of celibacy, Archbishop Parolin said it is “not a dogma of the Church.” However, he added that the “effort made by the Church to institute ecclesial celibacy should be taken into account. It cannot simply be said that it belongs to the past.”
Priestly celibacy, he said, “remains in the Church because, throughout all these years, events have occurred that have contributed to developing God’s revelation.”
Archbishop Parolin also referred to the question of homosexuality, saying that when Pope Francis said, “If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to criticize him?” what he was saying is that “the doctrine of the Church is very clear about this moral point.”
Jesus, he explained, “asks us to grow and to adapt ourselves to the image he has of us. God alone judges the conduct of each one, and the Pope has said this.”