Vatican: Our former secretary general Etienne De Jonghe explains Ostpolitik of the Vatican

Historians from Russia and the Vatican gathered for a conference in Moscow to debate history and Ostpolitik. The meeting is a concrete result of the meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba in 2016. Both church leaders agreed to work more closely together in the future. The Russian Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences History have been working together since the 1990s. Since 2002 there is also a program for strengthening the cultural exchange between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Etienne De Jonghe was almost thirty years secretary general of the international peace movement Pax Christi International. Therefore he was a privileged witness of the Cold War and he had several touchpoints with the Ostpolitik of the Vatican: Cardinal Casaroli was towards the end of the Cold War responsible for Ostpolitik Vatican. "Ostpolitiek" mainly refers to the Vatican diplomacy for Pope Joannes Paulus II (1920-2005).

"It is good to realize that the situation was very different from one country to another", De Jonghe explains. "In Czechoslovakia, for example, the Catholic Church was tackled hard. In Hungary, the government was milde. In the GDR Catholics were only a minority. In traditionally Catholic Lithuanian, the Church was severely persecuted under Stalin and later - until the arrival of Michail Gorbatsjov - contacts with Catholics in Lithuania went quite difficult. In Poland the Catholic Church was too strong to control. There, Church magazines were published, there were strongly developed and anchored parishes and there was a thriving social and cultural life. The rulers were fiercely wary of the strong Catholic identity. With pope Joannes Paulus II broke a new chapter for diplomacy with Eastern Europe."

Read the whole interview here (in Dutch).

Read about the conference in Moscow here.

Photo: Philippe Keulemans


Vatican, Russia, Ostpolitik, conference, Etienne de Jonghe