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The Pope’s Limited Influence on Foreign Affairs

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pope-francis-unPope Francis has made support for migrants and refugees a priority of his pontificate, and has encouraged nations to adopt an open-door immigration policy. But few countries, especially in Europe, appear interested in adopting his approach, underscoring just how limited an influence the pope has on foreign policy.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighting the pope’s inability to strongly affect geopolitical affairs quotes Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton Institute’s Rome office and a former Vatican policy analyst:

Starting with Pope Benedict XV’s efforts to end World War I, the leader of the Catholic Church has regularly been a prominent voice for peace, usually with disappointing results. St. John Paul II failed in his attempts to dissuade the George W. Bush administration from launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Pope Paul VI went to the U.N. and said ‘No more war, war never again.’ That’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t accord with reality,” said Kishore Jayabalan, who served as an attaché to the Vatican’s mission to the United Nations in the late 1990s.

An early backer of the European Union and a consistent supporter of the U.N., the Vatican has long favored international cooperation and multilateral solutions to geopolitical problems.

Mr. Jayabalan, now director of the Istituto Acton in Rome, said the Vatican’s humanitarian emphasis on universal rights over the claims of sovereign nation-states has grown even more pronounced under the current pope.

That emphasis, along with Pope Francis’ heritage as the son and grandson of Italian immigrants to Argentina, helps explain the priority he has placed on the rights of migrants, whether refugees or economic migrants.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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