Cardinal Parolin Talks China, Iraq, Covid, and Curial Reform

In a wide-ranging interview with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, discusses the recent Vatican financial scandal, Pope Francis' upcoming apostolic visit to Iraq, and shares his thoughts on the highly criticized Vatican-China deal.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin. (photo: Edward Pentin)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has given a new interview, this time to the French Catholic broadcaster KTO in which he discussed with director general Philippine de Saint Pierre a number of topical areas including curial reform, the Pope’s planned visit to Iraq in March, his controversial handling of relations with China, recent Vatican financial scandals, and the COVID crisis. 

Here are some of the interview highlights.


Curial reform:

 “…I believe that considerable progress has been made, and that, in fact, the reform has already been achieved… There is talk of a possible merging of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, the Congregation for Catholic Education with the Pontifical Council for Culture. But these are minor actions compared to what has already been done.

The Holy Father has not yet decided on a precise date [for publishing the new Apostolic Constitution]. But I think it will not be long in coming… I think that before the end of this year the Apostolic Constitution will be published.”


Recent financial scandals:

 “…If we look at history, there have always been difficult moments. There have always been situations, how shall I say, not completely transparent; problems, difficulties, etc... The Holy Father wanted to directly confront these problems that have arisen precisely to make the Roman Curia as transparent as possible… I would say that on the one hand there are those problems that unfortunately sadden us, hurt us, but on the other hand it is a sign of the will to make this institution as effective as possible, with the aim of evangelizing today’s world and proclaiming the Gospel to the people of today.”



“The Pope wants to go to Iraq especially to encourage Christians… There is also interreligious dialogue, since going to a Muslim country will certainly be one of the themes that the Pope will address. And then I think, in order to encourage political reforms, the political stability of the country. These, I think, are the goals of this trip.”


Role of religions today:

“…I think it's important that religions have a public space, that they are given a public space in which they can make their voices heard. Christianity is completely immersed in history because it’s the religion of the Incarnation, not a disembodied religion, thanks to the incarnation of the Son of God. 

Religions can make an important contribution to the resolution of great problems, in the face of which, at times, especially in our time, politics is a little voiceless. It does not know what to say. Or it finds itself in difficulty.”


Going against the secular tide:

“I often think of St. Peter’s phrase: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness.” This does not mean going into conflict for the sake of conflict. That would be meaningless. And then sometimes, even when you get into conflict, the message doesn't get through. So, the method is always the dialogue method. It is always the method of fair, correct and sincere confrontation… [The Church] seeks to make her interlocutor understand that her purpose, her objective, is to serve the dignity of the person, to put him or her at the center of social life, of international life.”



“We have talked so much about it! I would say first of all that I deeply respect anyone who has a different opinion and who criticizes, let’s say, criticizes the Holy See’s policy on China. And it’s a right to do so because it’s an extremely complex and difficult situation. There can be different points of view. We decided this path of “small steps” — it’s true that there has been work done before, but there was a great impetus from Pope Francis. Also take into account that this agreement was not intended to be, and could not be, an agreement to resolve all the problems that the Church faces in China, but simply a small step from which to start, to seek to improve the situation of the Church. So there is no claim that this is the “final word.” It is only — I have always compared it to a small seed which enters the ground. We have had these days the Parable of the Sower in the liturgy, which goes into the ground and which, we hope, with the grace of God and the good will of each one, will be able to grow and bear fruit. This is our Hope. And it requires a lot of patience. A lot of patience.”


COVID crisis:

“…The crisis we are living through is a more general crisis than a health crisis: it is also an environmental crisis, a political crisis, a human crisis, a crisis of relationships, etc. And it is also an opportunity. As always, isn’t it? The Pope spoke of this in his address of greetings to the Roman Curia. Crisis as opportunity… A culture of mutual care is the Church’s invitation to confront and resolve the current pandemic situation.”



“…We know all the objections are there, but I believe that in the end we have to trust that this will help us get out of the crisis.”


Papal trip to France:

“…Perhaps it is a question of finding the opportunity, but I think there is an openness and a desire on the part of the Pope to come and visit France. But don’t ask me for the date!”


Prayer intention:

“…Pray for the Church, for the unity of the Church. I think that today we have a great need to rediscover this unity for which Jesus prayed, in the prayer of the Last Supper. There is a lot of tension, there is a lot of division, so we need to rediscover this unity that allows us to be credible witnesses of the Gospel. That is why the Church exists, why the Church functions.”