The Vatican's Role In World Diplomacy | Happy Student Education ™

The Vatican’s role in World Diplomacy

Article Category Parents | Principals | Schools | Teachers
Published April 22, 2021

The Catholic Church

Vatican City in Rome is universally represented by its head of state, or absolute monarch, the Catholic Pope. The Vatican’s role in world diplomacy is evident throughout history. The Catholic Pope is the head of one of the largest religions in the world.

The Catholic Church grew tremendously over the years, now totaling in the billions. The words of the Popes carried incredible power and influence throughout the world.

Initially, during the middle ages, many Popes were able to achieve diplomatic success in many Christian nations. However, nowadays Popes served as diplomats in world events often protecting human rights in situations that otherwise would make many people suffer.

The Catholic Church has always been very influential and very powerful, especially during medieval times (5th to the late 15th), with hundreds of millions of Christians in the world of every statue. For example, when the Roman Empire lost its shine and was invaded by barbarians from every corner by the 5th century, Pope Leo I the Great had a vision that ultimately helped the city of Rome from being sacked. 

Attila the Hun

Great Popes

While Attila the Hun was nearing the city of Rome, pope Leo I intercepted him and somehow, as a true diplomat, managed to convince Attila the Hun to turn back with his forces. Thus, Attila the Hun turned back, Rome was not sacked, and thousands of people were saved from certain massacres.² Pope Urban II epitomized diplomatic genius and religious excellence with the Council of Clermont in 1095 AD.

Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II

Pope Urban II’s diplomatic influence among Europe’s kings allowed him to call the Council of Clermont resulting in the First Crusade. The First Crusade united most European kingdoms and launched a large invasion of the East center on the city of Jerusalem. 

Pope Urban convinced the various European monarchs to embark on this journey by promising complete forgiveness of all their sins. Interestingly enough, most European monarchs embarked on a long journey to the holy land and with a massive army. 

The Crusades

Pope Urban II, I was initially motivated by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I who sent him a request for aid to repel the invading Muslims. Subsequently resulting in the First crusade. The Vatican’s role in world diplomacy was epitomize by Pope Urban II.

The ultimate drive was that Constantinople was the last major city in the east that remained fully Christian therefore Pope Urban reacted as the defender of Christianity. ³

The first Crusade
The first Crusade

Thus the diplomatic and military influence of the Popes in medieval times was essential to most Monarchs. Another interesting example was the case of the Holy Roman Emperors which starting with Charles the Great, the acceptance and coronation by the popes represented the importance of the papal diplomatic scope.  

Nevertheless, one of the most powerful Popes was Innocent II who managed to unite Europe, create the papal state, and ruled as a king above all kinds of Europe of the period. For instance, “He had, he said, by his command, cast nest for the fish and, with the aid of the friars in Livonia, won the pagans, converted the schismatic of Wallachia and Bulgaria, reunited Armenia— too long separated— and, finally, reattached Greece to the Church”. 4 Subsequently, the Popes in Rome became masters of diplomacy and war during the period.

Popes Masters of Diplomacy

Seekers of peace

In present times the influence of the Vatican remains vast and intact. There more than one billion loyal followers of the Catholic in the world.[5] For instance, Pope John Paul II is widely known for influencing the collapse of Communism in his native Poland through nonviolent diplomatic acts.6

To say the least, the Popes are universally considered as advocates for human rights and diplomats of world peace. Nevertheless, unlike medieval times the power and influence of the popes derive from the pope not the governments of the world.

Vatican City
Vatican City

Unlike medieval times where the popes ruled from Rome, aside from the French popes who ruled from Paris, now the popes travel around the world and exercise effective diplomatic skills.

 For instance, “History was made yesterday, December 4, 2009, evening when Pope Benedict met Dimitri Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation and agreed to establish full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Russian Federation.”[7] Thus, the strong diplomatic influence of the Vatican is exercise around the world to this day.  


Ultimately, the power and influence of Popes as head of the Vatican gradually transformed over the centuries, it has also remained intact in terms of influence, and wealth. Even in the present time, many head of states look to the church for morality, and trying to be good leaders.

Arguably there are many negative factors affecting the history of the Popes and the Catholic Church. However, we rather shine a light, as historians, on the historical importance of the Catholic Church on world diplomacy.  

During the middle ages, for instance, people, including heads of states making crucial decisions on life or death situations, followed the word of the Popes as a divine mandate from God.

The Vatican’s role in world diplomacy is something that plays a huge role in world politics. However, nowadays the Popes exercise effective diplomacy through logic, compassion, and love through the power of God. 


  1. Lateran Pacts of 1929
  2. accessed April 28, 2013.
  3. Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree (Contributor), John Cairns Warfare in the Ancient World 2006.
  4. Carey, Brian Todd (Author), Joshua B. Allfee, John Cairns WARFARE IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD 2012.
  5. Powell, James M. Innocent III: Vicar of Christ or Lord of the World? Catholic University of America Press; 2 Exp Sub edition (December 12, 1994).
  6. Global Catholic Network             accessed April 28, 2013.

  1. What part did Pope John Paul II play in opposing Communism in Eastern Europe?              accessed April 28, 2013.



  1.  Lateran Pacts of 1929
  2.  Warfare in the Ancient World pg. 125
  4.  Powell, James M. Innocent III: Vicar of Christ or Lord of the World?  Pg. 13
  5.  Global Catholic Network
  6.  What part did Pope John Paul II play in opposing Communism in Eastern Europe?
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