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Papacy is back in global politics — that is, assuming it ever left. The gesture by Pope Francis to visit the Russian Embassy in Rome on Friday undoubtedly makes a notable event, for a variety of reasons.Pope, Putin and Ukraine in crisis
But one of the biggest takeaways here is how, amid what is becoming an epic battle inside the Catholic church, the traditionalists have shown they will stop at nothing. Personally, I think it’s a sign of weakness, an act of desperation by people trying to retain power who know they’re losing, as Catholics have changed with the world, many even leaving the church; it mirrors the larger political struggle in the United States.
Another role, geopolitical in measure, entails McCarrick’s diplomatic entreaties to China, having at one point worked with President Jiang Zemin (1993-2003) to normalize relations with Rome. (The Cardinal later played a role alongside Pope Francis in the diplomatic backchannel that led to President Obama’s opening to Cuba, much to the chagrin of the conservatives.) The conservative wing of the hierarchy seeks to revive Cold Warrior strains of rhetoric about persecuted religious minorities, a gesture synoptic with the neocon saber rattling towards Beijing. For example, Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has links with the CIA-backed National Endowment for Democracy and previously expressed public skepticism of Pope Francis’ diplomatic overtures to the mainland. In contrast, the liberals have a much more nuanced and pragmatic approach, perhaps in part due to realization that, unlike the days of the adamant Polish patriot upon Peter’s Throne, it is very unlikely that an indigenous Chinese Catholic popular movement will dislodge the Communist Party in the fashion of Lech Wałęsa and Solidarność three decades ago. (Where the secular cynicism of the neocon militarist impulse diverges from the theological wishful thinking of over-zealous believers and clerics waiting on the divine intervention of St. John Paul II is hard to determine.)