Vatican Official Explains Why Cardinal Parolin Attended Bilderberg Meeting

After much deliberation, the Vatican Secretary of State decided to take part in order to convey Catholic social teaching to those who would not otherwise hear it.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 27, 2017.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 27, 2017. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, accepted an invitation to address the controversial and secretive Bilderberg Meeting earlier this month in order to take the teaching of the Church to a group who would not otherwise hear it, a Vatican official has told the Register.

The Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Italian organizers of the visit were persistent in extending an invitation to the most senior Vatican official after Pope Francis to this year’s event, which took place June 7-10 in Turin, Italy. 

“The cardinal decided to take part after the Italian organizers very insistently invited him to the meeting six months ago,” the official explained. “He thought about it for a long time and, after consulting the necessary people, he decided to go.” 

Key topics for discussion at the 66th Meeting included “populism in Europe,” “the inequality challenge,” and “the ‘post-truth’ world.” 

Founded in 1954 at the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, the Bilderberg Meeting has drawn controversy for its secretive nature and alleged globalist agenda, one that critics say is pushing for open borders and a one world government. 

But the organizers convey a more benign organization in which politicians, businessmen, academics and the media can come together to “foster dialogue between Europe and North America” about major issues facing the world. 

The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of any participant may be revealed.

The organization, currently chaired by French businessman Henri de Castries, argues that the private nature of the meeting means the participants “are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions.” This allows them “take time to listen, reflect and gather insights,” it says, and so there is “no desired outcome.” 

In his June 15 comments to the Register, the Vatican official stressed that Parolin “did not ask to go” to the event, but decided to attend after a “long process of consultation.” He said he did not know why the organizers were so insistent, except that it was probably because Pope Francis is an “important voice” on the world stage. 

The Vatican Secretary of State was there for a “short time — about an hour and three quarters,” he disclosed, during which the cardinal gave an address about the “social doctrine of the Church” followed by a question and answer session. 

The Pope was certainly aware of the cardinal’s participation, the official said, and that the cardinal was “fully aware of the controversial nature” of the event but felt encouraged by having already met many of the participants in “other contexts.” 

“He already knew some of the people, prime ministers and so on,” the official said. 

The Bilderberg event’s existence became better known in 2010 when it established a website. Until then, alleged participants denied the existence of the annual event, although the organization says it held press conferences on the eve of each annual Meeting “for several decades up until the nineties,” but scrapped them after “lack of interest.” 

Media coverage continues to be prohibited in order to encourage dialogue, although media personalities have been invited to take part. 

Many high-profile individuals have attended in the meeting over the years. Previous delegates have included Henry Kissinger, George H. W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the former executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. Among media personalities taking part this year (and previous years) were Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and John Micklethwait, editor in chief of Bloomberg television. 

The Vatican official brushed off concerns about the secretive nature of the event, saying that the Chatham House Rule is well known and widely used. “Various other meetings have the same rules,” he said. The Bilderberg Meeting says participants are free to discuss the meeting and do so every year, but they are asked not to quote each other.

Some have speculated that this year’s event was to discuss how to thwart rising nationalist and populist movements, seen most clearly in the election of President Donald Trump, Brexit, and the recent elections in Italy which saw two populist parties gain power. 

The Vatican official said he “could not say anymore” on the issue, reiterating that the cardinal was there “simply to convey Catholic social teaching” and to take “the voice of the Church to people who wouldn’t otherwise hear it.”  

Although the official wasn’t present with the cardinal, he said he believed his speech and remarks were “very well received.” 

The Register contacted the Bilderberg Meeting to ask why the organizers were so insistent on having the cardinal participate and whether it seeks to promote a globalist agenda, but it has not yet responded.