The Papacy Past and Present: Religious Soft Power and International Diplomacy

A Conversation with Timothy A. Byrnes

March 12, 2021
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

The Roman Catholic papacy is an institution with a long history of exercising religious soft power, especially since the papacy lost its central position in traditional military and diplomatic relations through the loss of the Papal States in the late nineteenth century. Popes since that time have participated directly in global politics not only through the enduring diplomatic status of the Holy See in international law, but also by turning their unparalleled global media presence into the moral megaphone of what Joseph Nye has called a “global conscience.” At the same time, popes have also exercised soft power through indirect channels by appointing local leaders of the Church, and by molding the preferences and priorities of individual Catholics on a long and varied list of contemporary issues.

Timothy A. Byrnes, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Colgate University, joined Berkley Center Senior Research Fellow and Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power Director Peter Mandaville in this fifth conversation in the ongoing Religion in Foreign Policy comparative series to discuss papal soft power. Byrnes and Mandaville discussed the leadership of transnational Catholicism and its active participation in global political debates surrounding issues as varied as migration, climate change, human reproduction, and social inequality.

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