‘Roman Nights’ Discusses Leadership in Midst of Crisis

EWTN Vatican Bureau organizes third panel event.

What does the Catholic Church advise about leading oneself and others?
What does the Catholic Church advise about leading oneself and others? (photo: Unsplash / Unsplash)

ROME — True leadership is based in love, humility and an openness towards others, according to the three panelists at “Roman Nights,” a March 22 event that focused on leadership and what one could learn from the Catholic Church when it comes to leading oneself and others. 

The EWTN Vatican Bureau organized the third edition of “Roman Nights,” which brought together people from among the backgrounds of diplomacy, academia, business and religious life to the newly renovated Palazzo Orsini not far from the Tiber River. The event was hosted by the Order of Malta. Antonio Zanardi Landi, the order’s ambassador to the Holy See, greeted the audience with a brief opening remark.

The three panelists were Chiara Porro, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Paolo Cuccia, who runs the Italian publishing house Gambero Rosso, and Legionary Father John Connor, the superior general of the Legionaries of Christ. The trio reflected on their own leadership experiences and what they have learned working with the Church.

“In times of crisis, good leadership can make all the difference,” said Father Connor.

Porro, a career diplomat holding posts in Canberra with the foreign ministry and oversees, shared that it could be quite a challenge balancing a diplomatic post and private life. The mother of two young children only arrived two years ago to Rome and had to build diplomatic relations amid the mounting pressure and repeating lockdowns of the COVID crisis.

Speaking of diplomacy, she did comment on the current involvement of the Holy See in the war in Ukraine, commending Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Pope Francis on their strong stance toward Russia. 

Despite not having an army or weapons of any sort, the Vatican still brings a lot of weight to the diplomatic table. 

“Sometimes it is difficult for countries to understand the Holy See’s diplomacy. For centuries it has been very much about encounter and dialogue, bringing sides together,” said Porro. The Holy See would not have national interests that stop at the border; it had global interests, she explained. 

She said, “What Pope Francis is doing, including speaking with the Ukrainian president, and with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he is trying to create opportunities for dialogue, to bring the sides together.” 

The Holy See has a very distinct approach to diplomacy because its networks around the world and people on the ground are able to meet with people in leadership. Porro finished with the example of the mayor of Kyiv inviting Pope Francis to visit, “which just shows the power that the Church can bring to these situations.” 

The conversation, however, was not limited to just the situation in Eastern Europe. Father Connor reminded the audience that one of the main skills a good leader must have is being able to bring people together to work toward a common goal. 

Despite the sadness of the state of the Ukraine, he still appreciated being able to “see the collective effort of humanity of nations supporting that country.” 

Father Connor said he interpreted it as “a direct response actually, inadvertently, to the Holy Father’s Fratelli Tutti. He wants to see us to come together and work together. So I would hope that we all grow from the conversation tonight, and we look to reach out and collaborate together to be better leaders, and to have a positive effect in our culture in society.”

Cuccia also mentioned Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti as an inspiration to collaborate and lead in a sustainable way. 

“As leaders, we have to accept responsibility for how we run our organizations, how we deal with people and how we live our own lives,” he said. 

While acting in the interests of others may not always be the easiest way of working in a competitive environment, Cuccia said he is convinced that it is the path to “long-term success,” and it takes true leadership skills to stand up for what is right. 

Father Connor agreed, while bringing the conversation back to the lessons the Church and its saints can teach us about true leadership. “Well, I think there’s a lot to learn, for all of us,” he said. 

“The Church and its history have a wealth of good examples from the saints and the martyrs. These are people who gave their lives as leaders to positively influence culture and society.” 

The panelists agreed that profound commitment was another important sign of leadership quality. Father Connor then urged the audience to place the Gospel at the heart of efforts when leading people.

“We need to build communities of love,” he said. This should be true in our professional life and in business, and we should make sure people feel accepted and that these relationships are built on trust. ”