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WikiLeaks: 2008-07-04: 08BAGHDAD2060: Nuncio Affirms Iraqi Christians Want to Stay, Not to Leave Iraq

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD2060: July 04, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 02:51 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD2060, NUNCIO AFFIRMS IRAQI CHRISTIANS WANT TO STAY, NOT

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD2060 2008-07-04 12:17 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO0034
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2060/01 1861217
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041217Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8118
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0033
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002060 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/03/2018 
TAGS: PREL PHUM SOCI IZ
SUBJECT: NUNCIO AFFIRMS IRAQI CHRISTIANS WANT TO STAY, NOT 
LEAVE IRAQ 
 
BAGHDAD 00002060  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  The Papal Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop 
Chullikat, affirmed on July 3 that most Christians wished to 
remain in Iraq. He declared the trend toward emigration 
reversible, with generating employment opportunities the best 
remedy for their hardships.  He called for Christians to be 
integrated further into Iraqi society and he cautioned 
against encouraging measures, like the creation of an 
autonomous security zone, that would set Christians further 
apart from their fellow Iraqis.  DepPolCouns broached Mission 
efforts to galvanize GoI attention to the vulnerability of 
Iraq's religious minorities.  Noting PM Maliki's planned 7/22 
call on the Pope, he asked how the Vatican would react were 
the GoI to extend an invitation for a papal visit, with 
Chullikat expressing strong interest.  The Nuncio voiced 
reservations about the views of prominent Christian figures 
in the GoI, but considered their presence a net plus. 
DepPolCouns and Chullikat agreed to make joint visits to key 
minority sites in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, which the 
Nuncio has been unable to access due to security concerns. 
End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) The Papal Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Francis 
Chullikat told DepPolCouns on July 3 that most Christians 
wished to remain in Iraq and that the trend of their flight 
and emigration was reversible.  The Christian minority had a 
deep-rooted Iraqi identity, he stated.  He recommended that 
the focus with the Iraqi Government should be on integrating 
the Christian minority into Iraqi society, not on fostering 
special categories or creating an autonomous zone. 
Generating and facilitating employment was a key priority -- 
Christians were treated "worse than second-class citizens," 
Chullikat asserted, but would elect to remain in and even 
return to Iraq if there were economic opportunities. 
 
3.  (C) DepPolCouns underscored Mission's systematic effort 
to highlight the predicament of Iraqi minorities with 
high-level GoI and KRG officials.  He informed Chullikat of 
Mission efforts to expedite the release of Iraqi funds 
earmarked for the Non-Muslim Endowments Office, which could 
then be used to restore damaged religious sites.  These funds 
remained frozen pending associated legislation at the Council 
of Representatives; however, PM Maliki could consider an 
executive order to address the issue.  Chullikat expressed 
frustration that similar funds allocated by Sweden to the GoI 
had never found their way to religious communities. 
 
4.  (C) Turning to the July 22 audience planned for PM Maliki 
with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, DepPolCouns asked 
whether the Holy See would be receptive were Maliki to extend 
an invitation to visit Iraq.  He suggested the prospect of 
such a papal trip would impell the GoI to take more energetic 
actions on behalf of Iraqi minorities.  Chullikat avowed such 
a trip would be a watershed.  He regretted that John Paul II 
had failed to realize his dream of a visit to Iraq, 
suggesting the late Pope had missed an opportunity in the 
immediate aftermath of the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein. 
 
5.  (C) The Nuncio cast a critical eye on figures commonly 
identified as Christian activists, specifically Pascale 
Warda, Adviser to Council of Representatives Speaker 
Mashadani and former Minister of Displacement and Migration, 
as well as Human Rights Minister Wijdan Mikhail.  Chullikat 
warned their commentary was not disinterested; they used 
their Christian affiliation when it suited their own personal 
and political agendas.  He further volunteered he had chided 
both for failing to attend the funeral of Chaldean Archbishop 
Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, kidnapped and murdered in 
February.  Chullikat expressed puzzlement that Wijdan, as 
Human Rights Minister, had made no public statement after the 
killing; by contrast, Chullikat lauded PM Maliki for his own 
"beautiful" remarks.  His criticisms of prominent Christian 
politicians aside, Chullikat agreed that their inclusion in 
the Iraqi Government was largely beneficial, if only as a 
reminder of the presence of religious minorities in Iraqi 
society. 
 
6.  (C) Chullikat welcomed the invitation for a joint visit 
with DepPolCouns to the Doura neighborhood in Baghdad, the 
location of two seminaries -- St. Peters Major Seminary and 
the Pontificate Babel College -- that have ceased to 
function.  He said he wanted to assess the viability of 
reopening these facilities.  He added there was also a Jesuit 
seminary called Baghdad College that had been shuttered.  A 
seminary was being set up in Ain Qawa near Erbil but 
Chullikat felt it critically important to avoid its becoming 
a long-term facility.  With the security situation trending 
favorably in Baghdad, he hoped the city could soon resume its 
central role in the formation of Christian clergy.  The 
 
BAGHDAD 00002060  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Nuncio expressed eagerness also to visit Basrah's Christian 
community, if possible, in addition to Ur, sacred to Muslim 
and Christian alike as the putative birthplace of Abraham. 
 
7.  (C) There are currently nine bishops in Iraq, according 
to Chullikat.  Three sees of vital importance remain empty: 
Basrah, Mosul and Erbil.  Basrah has a patriarchal custodian, 
a priest named Imad Aziz, who also tends to the Christian 
community in Amarah, which numbers some thirty families. 
Asked about the Mandean community, followers of John the 
Baptist who are not stricto senso Christian, Chullikat said 
they maintain channels to the Chaldeans, which tries to be 
mindful of their interests. 
 
8.  (C) Bio Information:  Archbishop Chullikat, who reached 
Iraq during the tenure of then Ambassador Negroponte, 
mentioned that his predecessor as Nuncio had avoided meetings 
at the U.S. Embassy, adding that his own preference was 
instead to increase the degree of contact.  He mentioned in 
passing that he had overlapped with Ambassador Negroponte in 
four postings, including Baghdad, Manila and New York, where 
he was a member of the Observer delegation of the Holy See 
and maintained close relations with USUN. 
CROCKER

 



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