Cardinal Parolin Urges Negotiation to Find a ‘Win-Win Solution’ to War in Ukraine

Cardinal Parolin told EWTN that goodwill was needed to achieve anything in the talks between the two parties.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin talks to EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn on March 19, 2022.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin talks to EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn on March 19, 2022. (photo: Courtesy photo / EWTN)

DUBAI — As Russian forces continue to bombard Ukraine, the Vatican’s top diplomat has called for peace negotiations to find a “win-win solution” to the war.

In an interview with EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that “the message of the Holy See, of the Holy Father, is to stop the war.”

“The second message is to start to negotiate … knowing that there is always an honorable solution, if we want. I insist on that we are not to defeat anybody,” the Vatican Secretary of State said.

“In diplomacy, we speak about the win-win solution, that everybody is satisfied.”

“I think that there is always space, just to achieve something which is of satisfaction for everybody … also in this situation,” he added.

The cardinal was speaking on March 19, with the Russian assault on Ukraine already in its fourth week. The following day, Turkey’s foreign minister said that the two sides were “close to an agreement.”

Within 24 hours, however, a Russian government spokesman said there had been no significant progress in peace talks.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Pope Francis discussed the humanitarian crisis in the country during a phone call on March 22. The two men had previously spoken on Feb. 26, two days after Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Cardinal Parolin told EWTN that goodwill was needed to achieve anything in the talks between the two parties.

“Without the goodwill, there is no possibility of achieving anything,” he underlined.

The 67-year-old Italian cardinal, who celebrated a Mass for peace in Ukraine at the Vatican on March 16, reiterated the message a few days later.

Speaking to journalists as he inaugurated a new palliative care center in Passoscuro, west of Rome, on March 22, he said: “I think we are all at a loss in the face of what has happened and is continuing to happen, without knowing what the future holds, hoping that we will succeed in putting an end to this massacre — I would define it as such — and that we will succeed first of all stopping the war, and then in starting negotiations that can lead to a solution.”

On Catholic-Muslim Relations

EWTN’s interview with Cardinal Parolin took place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the cardinal had traveled to participate in the Holy See’s national day on March 19 at the Dubai Expo.

Incidentally, the cardinal was in Dubai on the date that the Vatican released a new apostolic constitution on the ninth anniversary of the start of Pope Francis’ pontificate. 

Cardinal Parolin said that it was Pope Francis’ personal decision to have the Vatican participate in the Dubai Expo as the Holy See continues to work to build a “constructive relationship with the Islam and the Arabic world.”

The Vatican’s chief diplomat noted that the Holy See has “many initiatives” within the UAE, noting that Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, also traveled to the UAE last month. 

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, also traveled to Dubai for the exhibit’s inauguration in October.

“My experience is an experience of great openness,” Cardinal Parolin said of his diplomatic work in the UAE.

“I had been here a few years ago for the consecration of a new church in Abu Dhabi and in that occasion also I had the chance to experience and to see that the authorities were very open to the Catholic Church.”

He added that the goal of the Holy See’s participation in the Dubai expo is “to know each other better.”

Cardinal Parolin noted that in a conversation with a local government official, the Emirati leader had commented that he was impressed by how well the Vatican officials he had encountered “knew Islam.”

Cardinal Ayuso, for example, speaks fluent Arabic and was a professor of Islamic studies in Cairo before Pope Francis appointed him to lead the Catholic Church’s interreligious dialogue initiatives. Ayuso is also one of the presidents of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity

“I think that the Catholic Church is doing its best through its institution to know better and to understand better the others, and we hope that this will be … let’s say there will be a reciprocity,” Cardinal Parolin said.

The Dubai Expo is the first world’s fair to be held in the Middle East. The Vatican Library has sent three original manuscripts which are currently on display in the Holy See pavilion.

The oldest of the documents is an Arabic translation of the Greek scholar Theon of Alexandria’s introduction to Ptolemy’s “Handy Tables,” produced between 800 A.D. and 830 A.D. by the Bayt al-Ḥikmah, or House of Wisdom, in Baghdad. It is the first time that the manuscript has left the Vatican Library.

The Holy See is participating in the expo,despite a call from the European Union’s law-making body for its member states to signal disapproval of what it described as human rights violations in the UAE by not participating in the expo.

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement arguing that the UAE’s attempts to “promote a public image of openness” with the expo were “at odds with the government’s efforts to “prevent scrutiny of its rampant systemic human rights violations.”

“Since 2011 UAE authorities have carried out a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of independent lawyers, judges, teachers, students, and activists, and shutting down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organizations, effectively crushing any space for dissent,” said the statement published Oct. 1, 2021.

In the interview with EWTN, Cardinal Parolin urged Catholics living in the Arabian Peninsula to “be courageous” in witnessing to the Gospel, despite the difficulties that they face.

“Of course, there are so many problems in the world, but [Pope Francis] never forgets his sons and daughters, who live here and have a special mission to perform to be witness of the Christian values of the Gospel,” Cardinal Parolin said.

“It's not important to have results in life, I don’t think. The important thing is to witness and to do our duty till the last, to the end,” he said.