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Promises & Miracles

Every summer up through my teenage years my family would take trips to Mexico. While there we’d make one- or multi-day pilgrimages to various Catholic holy sites: the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos (Our Lady of Saint John of the Lakes) near Guadalajara, Jalisco; the Sanctuary of the Santo Niño de Atocha (Holy Infant of Atocha) in Plateros, Zacatecas; and, of course, the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Mexico City. We were on a mission. My parents had made a manda, a promise, to carry out these visits in thanksgiving for prayers answered by Our Lady, the infant Jesus, or various saints.

At every location there were crowded outdoor markets. The enticing smell of street food filled the air. And there were the faithful entering into the places of worship, some walking, some on their knees, in pain and in prayer—a profound humbling before the divine. We’d go inside too, pray, and then exit through rooms filled with photographs, drawings, letters, children’s toys, crutches, and other offerings made in thanks for the miracles the pilgrims experienced. This communal experience of the pilgrimage and the offering of oneself to God were fully a part of the popular Catholicism I grew up with, as was the possibility of daily miracles.

I especially looked forward to visiting Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, which was only an hour’s drive from the city of Aguascalientes, my parents’ hometown. Our Lady of San Juan was always present to us back home in California, but like an elder member of the family, she was also someone who we needed to visit, to pay our respects to, and to thank for how she had helped us throughout the year. To end the visit we’d always stop for the famous traditional cajeta—a confection similar to dulce de leche served in a container with the image of Our Lady printed on it—sold by the vendors surrounding the basilica. Enjoying the cajeta after the pilgrimage was like an extended reminder of the sweetness of Our Lady.

There was no doubt in her mind that her prayer had been answered the moment she made it.

In the hierarchy of divine promises, mandas seemed to be a level up from Lenten promises, since they were made only under the most important or dire circumstances. During my last two years as an undergrad at UCLA, I decided to commute from my parents’ home, in Rialto. The thought of me commuting for two years was such a source of worry for my mother that she entrusted my safety to Our Lady of Guadalupe and promised to bring me to her in Mexico City after my graduation. She made plans almost immediately, because there was no doubt in her mind that her prayer had been answered the moment she made it. Two years later, we were there. So many pilgrims make the visit that a moving walkway was installed underneath the tilma bearing the famous image of Our Lady to keep the crowds moving. As we stepped onto it, my mother urgently grabbed me and placed me in front of her and the rest of the group we were with, holding me as if I were a communion wafer. I was the offering. 

On Friday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope Francis carried out a solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, and of Russia and Ukraine in particular, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was entrusting all of us to her and simultaneously presenting us as a humble and broken offering. In today’s Gospel reading (cycle C), we hear the story of the prodigal son. He is humbled and broken as he makes his pilgrimage back to the creator, not knowing that the divine is already prepared to embrace and celebrate his return. After our family pilgrimages, my parents felt a sense of relief at having fulfilled their promise to return to these places of worship, and as a family we felt touched by the tender presence of God. This is just the outcome the prodigal son hopes for. On his journey home he acknowledges the sins he’ll confess to his father. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers” (Luke 15:18-19). In seeking to return to the kingdom we, like the prodigal son, acknowledged our sins, in the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday:

We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord! (Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

As the universal Church consecrated humanity, we made a manda, a promise and a prayer for the miracle that we may change the course of our actions. We must believe in the possibility of that miracle. 

This is the fourth in a series of reflections for each Sunday in Lent. You can read the others here.

From the Church to the Woods

In a recent column Margaret Renkl, a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, announced that she, a cradle Catholic, has finally left the Church (“The Meaning of Lent to This Unchurched Christian”). She loved her parish, but evidently that was not enough to keep her tethered to the larger Church. Instead of attending Mass, she’ll make do spiritually with “a walk in the woods alone.” Renkl, a native Southerner and long-time Nashville resident, often writes about nature, but has occasionally vented her frustrations with the “institutional Church” and Catholicism’s teachings on sexual morality. She finds nature more uplifting, more in communion with the transcendent, than the faith of her youth. The Church’s refusal to ordain women she regards as a kind of original sin. Besides, her “conception of the divine had enlarged beyond any church’s ability to define or contain it.” Personally, I think the Incarnation is about as “beyond” as it gets.

Renkl’s frequent pantheistic reveries in the Times remind me of Chesterton’s warning that “Nature-worship is more morally dangerous than the most vulgar man-worship of the cities; since it can easily be perverted into the worship of an impersonal mystery, carelessness, or cruelty.” Renkl, her husband, and two sons were on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building when the decision legalizing same-sex marriage was announced (“How to Defy the Catholic Church”). “Love had actually won,” she wrote of the decision. She went on to denounce the archbishop of Indianapolis for insisting on the dismissal of a teacher for entering into a same-sex marriage. The bishop’s action was nothing more than a “witch hunt” and “breathtaking” hypocrisy. Consistency, Renkl argued, would require the dismissal of teachers who use birth control or who divorce and remarry without an annulment. But those other violations of Church teaching, whatever one thinks of them, are usually less public and therefore less confrontational than the act of entering into a same-sex marriage. You don’t have to agree with the bishop to recognize his quandary. How is one to make sense of Catholicism’s traditional anthropology and sexual ethics if marriage, long solemnized as an act performed by “a man and a woman” before God, is no longer defined by such God-given identities? Even Andrew Sullivan, someone who was instrumental in bringing about “marriage equality,” concedes that the Church probably cannot coherently take such a step. To be sure, there are plenty of Catholic theologians who think otherwise, but that debate has only just begun.

Renkl dismisses the Church’s teachings out of hand.

Renkl dismisses the Church’s teachings out of hand. She suggests that because same-sex marriage is now a protected Constitutional right, it must be accepted by the Church. She appears to feel the same way about legalized abortion. The venerable American belief in the value of religious dissent and the separation of church and state, Renkl insists, must not stand in the way of “love.” Religious institutions that do not conform must be defied, ostracized, and legally brought to heel. “Love will never truly win until everyone stands up for it,” Renkl pronounces. “In defending the moral and spiritual equality of those in same-sex marriages, Christian believers too have the opportunity to become something greater than once they were.”

I think Renkl takes a very illiberal and even condescending approach to some difficult and complicated issues. I don’t know if bishops are right in any particular instance to dismiss employees whom they judge to be in public defiance of fundamental Church teaching. I do know bishops have a right to do that, and that this right should be legally protected. I don’t want the state to make those decisions for the Church. My sense is that some bishops will go out of their way to pick this fight while others will turn a blind eye to it.

No one knows what the long-term social consequences of same-sex marriage will be, let alone what “gender theory” and transgender identity will mean for children, marriage, and the larger culture. When I was young, there was much talk about the sexual and spiritual benefits of open marriage, how divorce is actually good for children, and why recreational drug use broadens the mind. One was urged, as we are again today, not to stand in the way of “love” or to question the authority of personal “experience.” It would be refreshing if those now preaching the obsolescence of traditional institutions, morals, and gender categories would concede that they don’t know what the future will reveal either. There is no right or wrong side of history to be on; there is only the way things turn out, which none of us knows in advance. Perhaps, as Renkl thinks, the Church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage will enable it to become something “greater.” But at the moment, neither side in this debate has produced a notably more vibrant Catholicism. Perhaps we should put that proposition to the test. Let some bishops embrace same-sex marriage and others stand pat. Let’s see which communities build up the Church and which do not. Renkl may no longer have much interest in the fate of the “institutional” Church. But I do, and so should you.  

When Abortion Isn’t Abortion

Like most Catholics in the post–Roe v. Wade generation, I grew up hearing very little about miscarriages and a great deal about abortion. I thought I knew what abortion meant: abortion is murder; abortion stops a beating heart; abortion is a mortal sin. I did not know that, in medical terms, a miscarriage is a “spontaneous abortion.” When my first pregnancy ended, I was stunned to see the word “abortion” in my medical file. There I was, a woman who would never consider “having an abortion,” and yet somehow, very much in spite of myself, I already had.

If you bring up the matter of medical terminology in a debate about abortion restrictions, you may be accused of muddying the waters with semantics. Pro-lifers will tell you that of course they know the difference between abortion and natural pregnancy loss. But where the moral difference between choosing to end a life and suffering an unintended loss may be clear, the practical, legal, and medical realities overlap in complicated ways. I have learned over the course of six pregnancies and four births how inadequate pro-life rhetoric can be, and how lonely it is to find yourself in a place beyond the reach of slogans like “Choose life!” The awful irony of restrictions on abortion is the way they put up barriers to basic health care, barriers that can be dangerous for women whose experience of pregnancy is not a smooth path to motherhood.

I have learned over the course of six pregnancies and four births how inadequate pro-life rhetoric can be.

My sixth pregnancy, like my first, ended in a miscarriage—a fact I learned from an ultrasound exam, which classified the loss as a “missed abortion.” Three weeks later I was in the emergency room seeking treatment for what is known as an “incomplete abortion.” By that time, seeing the word “abortion” in my records no longer frightened me, but the reality very much did. I was admitted to the hospital with heavy bleeding, and ultimately I underwent a D&C, which activists can tell you is a procedure used to terminate a pregnancy. In my case, it was necessary to stop the hemorrhage that had sent me into shock. 

Morally, my situation was straightforward. Medically, it was a crisis requiring immediate intervention. And legally, in New York, nothing prevented me from getting the care that saved my life. But when I woke up in the maternity ward, thinking over the traumatic events of that night, I wondered whether a woman in my situation in a state with restrictive abortion laws would have been so fortunate. My survival depended on the availability of a doctor who was able and willing to perform an abortion procedure. It is not hard to imagine the situation turning out differently in a state with more “pro-life” laws regulating care. What if that doctor hadn’t been trained? What if she was afraid to get involved? What if someone else needed to approve the procedure before the hospital could carry it out? What if I ran out of time?

I don’t think it occurs to most pro-life voters that the same procedures that can end a growing pregnancy can also save a life, and that enacting restrictions on abortion could mean withholding care from mothers whose lives are in danger. Appealing to “the health of the mother” is not just a pro-choice dodge, as many pro-lifers would have you believe. As a mother and as a woman, I am chilled by the heartlessness of slogans like “Pregnancy is not a disease,” which the U.S. bishops conference relied on in 2011 in opposing mandated coverage for birth control. I know better than any bishop what it’s like to bring life into the world. And I know pregnancy doesn’t always end in a blessing. I didn’t end up in the ER because I failed to appreciate the inestimable gift of life. I ended up there because a natural complication of pregnancy nearly killed me. That fact, and the fact that birth control is the obvious way to prevent a repeat of that experience, is inconvenient for the Catholic pro-life position. It gets brushed aside, and women like me find ourselves feeling disposable to a movement that claims to defend our dignity.

Many women like me find ourselves feeling disposable to a movement that claims to defend our dignity.

That night in the hospital, praying, I felt sustained by my faith, but abandoned by my Church. I came out grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved me and more alienated than ever from the pro-life movement, which I now saw as ready to sacrifice women’s real needs for a clearer path to political victory. 

I am still a woman who would not choose to have an abortion. I am also a woman who owes her life to accessible reproductive care. I don’t know yet what it will take to repair my relationship with the Church. But I do know my conscience won’t allow me to support laws or politicians that threaten women’s health care. Respect for every life is an ideal I embrace. But I’ve finally recognized that the pro-life movement, with all its good intentions, isn’t on my side. 


Images of Death & Hope

In the summer of 2021 I learned that I was pregnant. My husband and I were excited as we headed to my first doctor’s appointment. There, in the examination room, we stared at the ultrasound screen, searching for an embryo, almost-fetus, but instead saw an empty womb. The doctor expressed her condolences and took what felt like an eternal pause.  She continued the ultrasound, and we discovered the pregnancy in a fallopian tube. I had an ectopic pregnancy.  We heard the heartbeat, we saw the tiny figure, but from what seemed like a  distance I heard the words: “The pregnancy is not viable,” “this is a dangerous situation,” “we will need to operate today.” The doctor explained that the fallopian tube could rupture at any moment, putting me at risk of bleeding to death; she said that though the embryo had a heartbeat it would not survive. I thought about the faint heartbeat and the image of the tiny figure, but also felt terrible for my husband, who wore a look of worry, sadness, and shock. I felt terrible for the two of us. I felt sorrow for the little embryo who never had a chance. Last Sunday would have been my due date, and I found myself grieving the loss all over again. But I was also relieved that the date had passed, after having so long been stuck in my mind, just like the sound and images from the ultrasound.

This week also marked the two-year anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdowns in Los Angeles. Two years ago, I had a very different idea of what my life would be. My husband and I had been married only a year and we never imagined that come 2022 we’d have lived most of our marriage in a global pandemic, unable to do many things we had hoped for and bombarded by images of packed hospitals and of people on respirators struggling to breathe. 

Now there is also the deep sadness I feel for the people of Ukraine, and for Russians who’ve been led to believe Vladimir Putin’s propaganda. The images out of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other cities have been devastating. A photo by Ukrainian Associated Press journalist Evgeniy Maloletka captured first responders and volunteers carrying an injured pregnant woman from a Mariupol maternity hospital damaged by Russian shelling; it was reported that when the woman realized she was losing her child she cried out to medics, “Kill me now!” Both she and her baby died. 

The way that we experience personal tragedies will inevitably affect the way we interpret a larger global crisis.

These images will live on, forever reminding us of the horrors inflicted on innocent civilians by Putin, just as images from the pandemic will remind us of the painful struggle for breath that Covid-19 patients endured, of the death toll, and of the politicization of our national response. And the way that we experience personal tragedies will inevitably affect the way we interpret a larger global crisis. I know that I will always associate the loss of my pregnancy with the pandemic, and my sorrow for that Ukrainian mother is connected with my own experience of being in a hospital, pregnant and vulnerable.

I know that my experience of trauma and depression is a communal one. During Lent I have wanted to focus on gratitude, but the world makes it so hard to do so. This Sunday’s readings speak of God’s divine presence, action, and mercy, and of course it would not be Lent if we didn’t hear a call to repentance. The gospel acclamation in our liturgy says, “Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Yet it’s hard to see the Kingdom of God when what we see are images of death and destruction. I’m reminded of the cross. When we contemplate death, pain, and the struggles of our time, we witness our vulnerability and our sinfulness. The sorrow that comes from seeing and remembering these images reminds us of our deepest desire for what is good and life-giving, and this is grace. God may not be to blame for the evil caused by humans or for the loss that comes from our simple human biological frailty, but God can use even the darkest of moments to remind us that we were made for love and life. The Gospel this Sunday gives us the parable of the fig tree:

There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ (Luke 13: 6-7)

Beyond our desire for the pain and suffering and personal tragedies to end, we also wish not to be afflicted by the memory of them. This is why images are so triggering. The memory of them, the thought of what has happened, is painful. But when we stop running away from our traumas, and, like the gardener in the parable, ask for more time to cultivate the ground around the memory, we allow for the grace of God to act in our lives. God can take our tragedies and sinfulness and reveal to us the failures from which we are to learn, and tell us what we ought to change. Grace also helps us recognize the presence of God in the midst of disaster. As we continue to live through a pandemic and a war, I place my trust in the divine gardener. May the ground of our experiences be cultivated so that we don’t remain stuck in the trauma and depression brought on by the death and evil of these times. 

This is the third in a series of reflections for each Sunday in Lent. You can read the others here.

Putin’s War & Pope Francis

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raises important questions for the Vatican about its role in international relations and, more specifically, about the geopolitical vision of Francis’s pontificate. It’s easy to think of the Cold War as the closest historical precedent to the current moment, but in fact it might be more helpful to compare the situation now to the period spanning the twentieth century’s two world wars. We are witnessing as Europe did then not only the invasion of a sovereign state, but also the human tragedy that necessarily results. The slaughter of civilians, the flight of more than 3 million refugees, and Putin’s language of “denazification” evoke the genocide by starvation in the 1930s and deaths of several million Ukrainians in World War II. We’re also being reminded of the key role Ukraine has long played in the history not only of Eastern Orthodoxy, but also of Judaism and Catholicism. 

All of this presents challenges for the Vatican, as the weeks following Russia’s attack have shown. Like political and business elites in the West, Rome for the past twenty years has largely ignored the increasingly open contempt Putin and the Moscow Patriarchate had for liberal democracies and the undeniable (if incomplete) freedoms they offered. In the hours before the invasion, Francis’s personal appeals for peace were timid and reluctant (contrast them to those he made at the September 2013 prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square, while the United States was threatening action in Syria). In the first few days following it, the pope and Vatican media were notably careful not to mention either Russia or Putin. Since then, however, Rome’s stance has become less neutral. First there was Francis’s unannounced visit to the Russian embassy to the Holy See. Then, at the Angelus prayer on March 6, Francis announced his intention to send two Curia cardinals to Ukraine as a sign of “the presence of the pope and all people”: Konrad Krajewski (Polish-born) and Michael Czerny (Czechoslovakian-born Canadian Jesuit) who arrived in the area between March 7 and 8 for a mission that is humanitarian, not diplomatic. The pope referred to Ukraine as a “martyred country” where “rivers of blood and tears are flowing.” He stated his willingness to do anything to help mediate for peace in Ukraine. He called the situation not just a “military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and misery,” a direct rebuttal—if not an official condemnation—of Putin’s propagandistic description. Francis also called for a return to respect for international law.

In the Angelus of March 13, Francis talked about “unacceptable armed aggression” and repeated that “God is only the God of peace” and “those who support violence profane his name.” Still, there is uncertainty about the goal of the Holy See’s activity: Does it indicate a willingness to act as mediator, as Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin mentioned, or is it a prophetic denunciation of the atrocity of war, as the Angelus of March 13 seems to suggest? Then on March 15, Pope Francis announced he would consecrate both Russia and Ukraine (the aggressor and the victim) to Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, with simultaneous acts at St. Peter’s in Rome and in Fatima, Portugal. It is a response similar in tone, perhaps, to the weaponization of the icon of Mary by the Patriarch of Moscow, but conveying a very different message. While no one should expect a direct criticism of Vladimir Putin or the Russian government by name, these moves nevertheless demonstrate a crescendo in tone since late February. Still, the media are questioning the “silences” of Pope Francis about Russia in suggesting a sinister echo of the silences of Pius XII during the Holocaust. Those in charge of crafting the pope’s message through Vatican media are pushing back against these accusations.

This silence reflects the Holy See’s wishes not to be perceived as favoring a particular side.

At the same time, there has been no official mention of the rights of the Ukrainian nation. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church says that a nation has a “fundamental right to existence” and a right to “its own language and culture, through which a people expresses and promotes its fundamental spiritual ‘sovereignty.’” This silence reflects the Holy See’s wishes not to be perceived as favoring a particular side, and to prevent minorities in other countries from using such a statement as justification for their own nationalistic aims, especially in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states. There’s a feeling of muted disappointment among Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, as well as Eastern Orthodox elites in the West, who had hoped for more engagement by the Vatican with both Putin and his key religious ally pushing the neo-imperial narrative of the Russian regime, Moscow Patriarch Kirill. In some ways it recalls the post–World War II era, during which anti-Communist Polish and Hungarian Catholics were frustrated with the Ostpolitik of the Vatican while fighting for the survival of the Catholic Church behind the Iron Curtain. Even so, this is a fundamentally different moment. Indeed, the Vatican is confronting a scenario more analogous to the 1930s, as Pope Francis has sadly warned in the last few years.

At Vatican II and through much of the post–Vatican II period, in the eyes of Rome, ecumenism with Eastern Orthodox churches in Europe went hand in hand with the work for peace and the encouragement of political and military detente between the United States and the USSR. After the invasion of Ukraine, this is no longer possible, given the formal and perhaps irreparable split within Orthodoxy, which is mostly owing to the rupture between the patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople. Further, the Russian Orthodox Church itself has since come to serve as the religious arm of Russia’s nationalist, expansionist ideology; it is not the persecuted Church of the Soviet era. But the heirs of the KGB and the hierarchies of the Moscow patriarchate have become strange bedfellows, which does recall the days of the Soviet Union. The subjection of Russian Orthodoxy to Putin’s regime has consequences that go far beyond Russia and far beyond religion: it is part of the ethno-nationalist, “revanche de Dieu” phase of global politics.

This has also widened the gap between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. Pope Francis speaks the language of nonviolence while Patriarch Kirill has adopted the language of the crusade. And since the invasion, relations have grown more tense not only within Eastern Orthodoxy, but also between the bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow. On March 3, Kirill met with the papal nuncio in Russia, then released a statement characterizing the Russian Orthodox Church as peacemaker but also containing a subtle warning to Rome (and others) not to interfere: “It is very important that Christian Churches, including our Churches, voluntarily or involuntarily, sometimes without any will, would not become participants in those complex, contradictory tendencies that are present on the world agenda today.” In his now notorious March 6 homily, Kirill cast the war in metaphysical terms and as a response to gay-rights movements and western values. In his March 13 homily, he reiterated that view and even accused Jews in Ukraine of limiting freedom of religion for the Ukrainian Orthodox loyal to Moscow. One is tempted to remember with nostalgia the times when there was talk of “ecumenical winter,” a crisis in the encounter between churches of different traditions. The relations between the Vatican and Moscow are back to square one, or worse. This lifting of the veil on the apocalyptic view of the relations with the West by Russian Orthodox leaders (Patriarch Kirill, as well as Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate) should be a wake-up call for leaders of the Catholic Church who have romanticized Russian Orthodoxy in the process of resisting Church reforms pushed by Western liberal theologians.

The Vatican’s diplomatic efforts are also running into challenges. The icy reactions from Russian Orthodox leaders in Moscow and from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Vatican’s outreach reveals Putin’s low regard for Rome’s diplomatic initiatives. And the United States has been less than enthusiastic about the Vatican’s offers to help mediate negotiations, which even within the Vatican walls don’t have unanimous support. The city of Rome traditionally has been and continues to be an important neutral venue for peace talks. But the value of papal diplomacy has been reduced in the eyes of the West, in part because of the Vatican’s slow reaction to Russian threats, and because of continued doubts in American intelligence circles (even after the departure of Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo) about its position on China. Things could get more complicated should Ukraine survive as a sovereign and independent state, since that may actually contribute to greater radical nationalism with religious overtones. And not only in Ukraine: Russian aggression and threats to the security of the continent could further push Catholics in Europe in the direction of nationalism, continuing the trend we’ve seen in Poland and Hungary the last few years.

Russia’s war in Ukraine, where there is clearly an aggressor and an attacked, tests the doctrine of “positive neutrality” articulated by Cardinal Parolin in 2019. But more fundamentally it tests the Holy See’s overall approach to international relations. Europe has been thrust into uncertainty at a time when Pope Francis has long since pivoted the Vatican toward the “global south” and Asia, in recognition of the global Church’s demographic changes. The return of great-power war in Europe may force Rome to look again at the old continent. For the foreign policy of the Holy See, the invasion of Ukraine means a return to a situation more like 1917 and the inter-war period of the twentieth century than to the age of Ostpolitik of the 1960s and ’70s. And it could also change the long-term picture for the Vatican more than the attacks of 9/11 did.