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Aleksanteri Conference







Stummvoll, A. Alexander

The Vatican and the Cold War, 1947-1991: Truth trumps neutrality

Legally speaking, the Vatican was a neutral actor during the Cold War. Politically speaking, however, the Vatican did not remain aloof from the big political, ideological and cultural questions of the era. The Vatican’s legal neutrality was complemented by a commitment to publicly promote ‘truth’, as understood by the organic tradition of Catholic social thought (CST). While conventional wisdom tends to portray the Vatican as moral cheerleader for the West’s struggle against communism, this paper offers a critical re-evaluation of the Vatican’s role in the Cold War. The common opposition to communism by the Vatican and the West, I argue, was the result of a short-term convergence of interests, rather than the expression of a long-term alliance based on common principles and values. While the Vatican did challenge communism, the four Cold War Popes did so for their own reasons and in their own distinct styles. Moreover, the Vatican’s agenda went far beyond anti-communism and included other important Cold War issues such as peace and security, development, and the legitimacy of liberal-capitalism. On these issues, the Vatican’s position also became increasingly critical of Western policies, attitudes, and life-styles, particularly as the Cold War neared its end.

Friday 30 Oct, 9.00-11.00 SESSION 4
Panel: Choosing Sides: Was Neutrality Really Possible?