In his annual January address to the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis addressed the escalation of the U.S.-Iran conflict head on. The Holy Father renewed his call for both nations to exercise restraint and “keep alive the flame of dialogue.” Similar to John Paul II’s famous cri de coeur in 2003 against the war in Iraq, Pope Francis stands out as one of the few world leaders with enough moral credibility to be taken seriously.
Veteran Vatican journalist John Allen argues that the Holy See might have a special advantage in brokering a deal between Iran and the U.S. given its formal diplomatic relations with both nations and its own religious authenticity, which appeals to both Shi’ite Muslims in Iran and religious Americans, especially Christians. Whether or not the Holy See plays a central role in resolving this conflict, it has shown itself to be a vital actor in years past.
The oldest diplomatic service in the Western world, the Holy See has sent papal emissaries to important political and ecclesial jurisdictions since the 5th century. Several concordats with sovereign entities have secured religious freedom and the rights of the Church worldwide. The hundreds of skilled diplomats in service to His Holiness have worked in some of the most volatile places on the earth. They know the injustices of war personally, while also engaging political leaders to promote peace. The Holy See is more apt than most nations to engage in a peace deal. Vatican diplomacy should not be taken lightly.