What has made Pope Francis such a dynamic international figure who has captivated Catholic and non-Catholic audiences worldwide? In this episode, we explore key events that have shaped Pope Francis’ foreign policy. 

Note: This episode was originally published in December 2016. Given the Pope’s recent comments regarding sensational media, we decided to re-post this episode to give context to his foreign policy.

Papal Election

The Papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio on February 28, 2013 following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Bergoglio (who took the name of Pope Francis) is Argentinean, making him the first pope from the global south. He is also the first pope from the Jesuit order, a sect of the Catholic priesthood and brotherhood known for engaging in diplomacy and immersing themselves in diverse cultures.

High-Profile Foreign Policy Actions

Pope Francis was instrumental in mediating the U.S.-Cuban rapprochement that was announced in December 2014. He facilitated secret discussions between the two countries that eventually led to warming relations. He was not the first Pope to advance this policy, though; both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI tried to persuade the United States to end the Cuban embargo.

Later in April 2015, Pope Francis called the 1915 Turkish slaughter of Armenians a genocide. The Pope’s bold message was met with both acclaim and criticism. Armenians praised Pope Francis for the recognition of the grave crimes, believing this declaration sent a powerful message to the international community about the evils of genocide. Angered Turkish officials recalled their ambassador from Rome and stated that the pope had overstepped the papacy’s historical bounds.

Conflict Mitigation and the Papacy

Pope Francis has traveled to conflict zones and violent countries to try to foster peaceful resolutions. His visit to the Central African Republic in November 2015 caused both sides to agree to a day-long ceasefire. However, despite his visit and message of peace, conflict still rages in CAR today. He also traveled to a tumultuous Venezuela to help mediate discussions between the president and opposition. Though there are limitations on his ability to help resolve crises worldwide, Pope Francis has remained committed to fostering peace.

Dig Deeper

Take a look at some of our favorite articles that we came across while researching this topic:

About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.