The Power of the Pope

For the past two thousand years, the pope has been a major player in global affairs. He is frequently called upon to act as a peace broker, a mediator, an advocate, and an influencer; and with over 1.3 billion followers around the world, the pope and his governmental arm, the Holy See, have the power to shape the future. How has the pope's power changed over time, and what is his role today?

 

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
x
Host
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting
Credits

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Timothy Byrnes
    Third Century Chair in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and Professor of Political Science, Colgate University
  • Francis Campbell
    Vice Chancellor, University of Notre Dame Australia

Show Notes

Presidents and prime ministers are often the first to come to mind when thinking about who shapes foreign policy. But there is another resonating voice at the center of international relations: the pope. Unlike other religious leaders, the head of the Roman Catholic Church exercises a unique influence over global affairs, and in recent years, popes have helped shape the outcomes of critical inflection points in history. In this episode, Why It Matters examines the pope’s enduring influence.

 

 

From CFR

 

Elliott Abrams, “The Pope’s Cuba Test,” Pressure Points and Middle East Program

 

Kenneth Himes and Robert McMahon, “The Pope’s Soft-Power Push

 

Steven A. Cook, “The Hard Edge of the Pope’s Moral Power

 

Victor Gaetan, “The Pontiff, the President, and the Planet,” Foreign Affairs

 

Victor Gaetan, “The Penitent Pope,” Foreign Affairs

 

Victor Gaetan, “Why Trump and Francis Diverge on Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Affairs

 

 

From Our Guests

 

The Enduring Power of the Papacy: Pope Francis and International Relations,” Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

 

 

Read More

 

Christopher White, “Behind the frontlines of the Vatican’s Ukraine-Russia strategy,” National Catholic Reporter

 

Nicole Winfield, “Pope’s Ukraine diplomacy a political and spiritual tightrope,” Associated Press

 

Paul Elie, “The Pope, the Patriarchs, and the Battle to Save Ukraine,” New Yorker

 

Sylvia Poggioli, “How Pope Francis Became A Foreign Policy Player,” NPR

 

Wang Linbin, “China-Vatican Relations in the Xi Era,” The Diplomat

 

 

Watch and Listen 

 

Diplomacy and Globalization in the Twenty-First Century,” Center for Political and Economic Thought, Saint Vincent College

 

Is the pope head of the world’s most powerful government?,” The Economist 

 

The Vatican’s diplomatic tightrope in Ukraine,” Inside the Vatican 

Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Thirty years ago, Rwanda’s government began a campaign to eradicate the country’s largest minority group. In just one hundred days in 1994, roving militias killed around eight hundred thousand people. Would-be killers were incited to violence by the radio, which encouraged extremists to take to the streets with machetes. The United Nations stood by amid the bloodshed, and many foreign governments, including the United States, declined to intervene before it was too late. What got in the way of humanitarian intervention? And as violent conflict now rages at a clip unseen since then, can the international community learn from the mistakes of its past?

Economics

Many Americans are losing faith in the benefits of internationalism. But whether it’s wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, worsening extreme weather as a result of climate change, or the trade-offs of globalization, events abroad are increasingly having a local impact. At the same time, more state and local officials in the United States are becoming involved in global affairs, conducting their own form of diplomacy on international issues and driving investment home. What role should the United States play in the world economy? And how do states and cities fit in?

Space

Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are real. And the truth about them is often hidden from the public, for reasons related to national security. That secrecy has fed conspiracy theories about the possibility of alien life on Earth, creating a stigma around the legitimate scientific search for life on other planets. Why are UFOs considered a defense concern? And does a defense framing of UFOs inhibit scientific research?

Top Stories on CFR

Ukraine

The two-year-old war in Ukraine—which is far from deadlocked—could pivot dramatically in the coming months. U.S. decisions will play a decisive role.

Egypt

International lenders have pumped tens of billions of dollars into Egypt’s faltering economy amid the war in the Gaza Strip, but experts say the country’s economic crisis is not yet resolved.

Iran

CFR experts discuss Iran’s attack on Israel and the escalation of the conflict. FROMAN: Well, thanks very much. Thanks, everybody, for joining. And thank you to our six senior fellows here who’ve …