Papal Diplomacy: The Popes and the Construction of a Transnational Public

Papal Diplomacy: The Popes and the Construction of a Transnational Public

Mariano Barbato, Centrum für Religion und Moderne der Universität Münster; Willy-Brandt-Zentrum für Deutschland- und Europastudien der Universität Wrocław; Lehrstuhl für Neuere und Neueste Geschichte Osteuropas und seiner Kulturen der Universität Passau
Vom - Bis
13.06.2019 - 15.06.2019
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Johannes Ludwig Löffler, Centrum für Religion und Moderne, Universität Münster

The interdisciplinary workshop aimed to investigate the roles and effects of the Holy See as both a legal actor in international diplomacy and a facilitator of public dialogue between religions and other social groups and communities. The workshop was part of the DFG Project “Legions of the Pope” and hosted participants from Germany and Italy. Mariano Barbato (Passau/Muenster) coordinated and organized the workshop, which was a cooperative event of the Center for Religion and Modernity (CRM), the Willy Brandt Center for German and European Studies (WBZ) and the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History of Eastern Europe and its Cultures. Despite the Holy See’s success to resist secularization strategies which intended to ban religious actors from public and politics, political science has paid little to no interest in the Holy See’s strategies to construct a transnational public sphere. Thus, the workshop aimed to explore the factors that helped the popes to rise as a transnational actor in a secularizing environment, to discuss the papacies contributions to create a public sphere and to identify the role of the media as part of a papal communication strategy.

With his opening presentation THOMAS WÜNSCH (Passau) outlined the points of contact between the concepts of “modern” and “modernity”. Using the example of Pope John Paul’s II vision of Europe as pacemaker (Schrittmacher) for the eastern EU-enlargement, he argued that the papacy, coming from a pre-modern period, is part of modernity. With the narration of a Slavic Pope combined with the physical presence of Karol Wojtyła, the Holy See was able to become a political actor on a transnational stage. Wünsch stated that John Paul II became a modern pope because he deliberately included the orthodox realm within his narration of common foundations of faith.

The first panel dealt with diplomatic and intellectual biographies. In his presentation on Pope Benedict XVI, PIERLUCA AZZARO (Milano/Passau) discussed the concept of dialogue and communication using the papal World Day of Peace messages to identify narratives of political thoughts on peace. He exemplified that with the “spirit of Vatican II”, dialogue became a “turning point in church history”. For Azzaro this lead to an “incorporation of modernity” within the Holy See. In his messages, Pope Benedict XVI shifted the emphasis of his peace-discourse and the idea of dialogue towards the concept of truth and person.

At the second panel of the workshop the participants discussed papal actorness, means of communication and the mobilization in public and politics. Combining nonverbal communication theory with the concept of political soft power JOHANNES LÖFFLER (Muenster) explained the Holy See’s strategy of visibility through the examples of pictorial representations of Pope Francis on the Holy See’s official website and the papal account on Instagram. He concluded that the ongoing modernization of the Holy See’s media lead to an increase of modern papacy's visibility and that the Holy See’s currency strategy of nonverbal communication focuses more on the personal charisma of Jorge Bergoglio than the religious authority of Pope Francis.

JONAS TREMBINSKI (Darmstadt) utilized the concept of the agora as a place for public discourse to explain modern papacies power in world society. Thus, he identified the pope’s ability to create discourse spaces all around the globe, the pope’s capability to enforce his will through persuasion and the pope’s ability to create a common ground of definitions as pillars of papal power. The panel concluded with MARIANO BARBATO’s (Passau/Muenster) presentation on Papal Power in (Public) Diplomacy. Rejecting Reinhart Kosellecks concept of the “saddle period” (Sattelzeit) or Karl Jaspers’ axial age (Achsenzeit) he utilized Claude Lévi-Strauss’ metaphor of cold and hot societies. Barbato argued that the Holy See is a hybrid actor, able to resist most external influences while at the same time being in the position to form transnational coalitions with different actors. The Holy See can visibly mobilize the masses of the faithful by adapting its own narrative without changing its defining core values.

The third panel dealt with interfaith dialogue and political geography. STEFAN ROHDEWALD (Giessen) explained the discursive strategies of religious dialogue using the example of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. In his presentation he used online regional articles to illustrate how interfaith meetings create specific and sometimes contradicting narrations. The panel concluded with STEFAN SAMERSKI’s (Munich) talk on the creation of New Martyrs (at Fareast) in the 19th Century. He referred to archival documents and discussed how the Holy See’s process of canonization changed between the 18th, 19th and 20th century, from an infrequently used long time process with strict requirements towards a regular tool. Samerski concluded that the canonization became a strategy to mobilize the faithful around the world.

During the concluding talk the workshop participants discussed the different methodological approaches presented during the event and the potential of interdisciplinary methods and new theoretical frameworks for political and social sciences. They concluded that the Holy See’s adaptability to influences of external actors requires further research within the fields of political science, communication studies, digital humanities and history.

Conference Overview:

Thomas Wünsch (Passau): Modern außerhalb der Moderne? Die Europaidee Papst Johannes Pauls II. als Schrittmacher einer Ost-Erweiterung der EU (1978–1988) / Modern beyond Modernity. John Paul II's Vision of Europe as a Pacemaker for the Eastern EU-Enlargement (1978–1988)

Panel I: Papal Actorness, Communication and Mobilization in Public and Politics

Katharina McLarren (Passau): The Holy See as a Hybrid Actor. Religion in International, Transnational, World Society

Johannes Löffler (Muenster): A Holy Regime of Visibility. The Papal Strategy of Nonverbal Communication

Jonas Trembinski (Darmstadt): The Power of the Agora. How Pope Francis Constructs Discursive Spaces in World Society

Mariano Barbato (Passau/Muenster): Papal Power in (Public) Diplomacy

Panel II: Interfaith Dialogue and Political Geography

Stefan Rohdewald (Giessen): Political Clerics: Strategies of the Moscow Patriarchate vs the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Pope

Gerulf Hirt (Halle): Pope Paul VI's Diplomacy for Unity: Staging and Symbolism of His Official Dialogue with the Anglican and Orthodox Churches

Stefan Samerski (Munich): A new Thinking at the Papal Curia. New Martyrs (at Fareast) in the 19th Century

Panel III: Diplomatic and Intellectual Biographies

Pierluca Azzaro (Milano/Passau): Peace in the Political Thinking of Pope Benedict XVI

Slawomir Oxenius (Passau): Achille Ratti als Nuntius in Polen - päpstliche Diplomatie im Wandel?

Concluding Discussion

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Englisch, Deutsch
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