One of the great opportunities for an Ambassador to the Holy See is the access the role gives to the wider Holy See and Catholic networks. Some of these are integral to the outreach of the Holy See (such as the network of Apostolic Nuncios – Papal Ambassadors – managing relationships with 179 countries around the world). But most are networks operating to spread the good word, help people in need, and support communities – especially the poorest – requiring assistance, be it moral or pastoral, spiritual or practical, in education or healthcare.
Such networks with which this embassy works include the Jesuit Refugee Service, on the ground in some of the world’s toughest places like Syria at the moment, selflessly assisting refugees and raising awareness of their plight. Or the Human Trafficking Network run by the Italian Union of Superiors General supporting the victims, usually women, of human trafficking – likened in its reach and power to a modern day slave trade – both in countries of origin and the countries of demand.
We have business with the Sant’Egidio community, made up of volunteers giving their free time to the cause of conflict prevention and resolution, dialogue and peacemaking, most recently apparent in their efforts in Bosnia Herzegovina to bring the leaders of different faiths and ethnicities to commit to a future together. And we engage with many of the organisations incorporating the 1.3 million religious men and women around the world today (according to the Pontifical Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life) living lives of self-sacrifice, abnegation and often real hardship, praying and working on behalf of others. If you need examples, think of the White Fathers in Africa, the followers of Mother Theresa in India, or the Missionary society of St Columban in many parts of Asia.
We also work with the Caritas Internationalis confederation of humanitarian and development organisations, including CAFOD, which celebrates 50 years of work this year, and SCIAF. Caritas brings together 165 Catholic organisations, responding to humanitarian disasters and promoting integral human development. Over a million staff and volunteers work globally in this network to try to make a better world.
The theme of “Blog Action Day 2012” is “The Power of We”. It seems a rather abstract phrase. But when you apply it to the people or groups who make a difference, volunteers looking not for reward or remuneration but the satisfaction of having done a good job by helping someone else, you understand that it could not be more concrete. Observers of the Vatican, particularly from the media, can often become obsessed by the power games, the “Kremlinology” of who’s in and out, the lists of future Papabili, or the latest scandal. There is all that too. But it is not, ultimately, what the Holy See is about. That’s why we engage with these networks. And why such work for the diplomats accredited to the Holy See can be so rewarding.