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.

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

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About the Author
Nicole is an alumna of the Global Communication M.A. program at George Washington University, with concentrations in Information Technology in International Affairs and Middle East Studies. She holds a B.A. in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law from the University of Virginia. Her interests include public diplomacy, technology policy, interfaith initiatives, and the media.