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WikiLeaks: 2008-07-10: 08BAGHDAD2148: Ambassador's July 7 Meeting with Papal Nuncio

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD2148: July 10, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 03:20 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD2148, AMBASSADOR'S JULY 7 MEETING WITH PAPAL NUNCIO

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD2148 2008-07-10 11:19 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO3715
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2148/01 1921119
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101119Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8243
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 002148 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/WE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2018 
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PHUM PREL IZ
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S JULY 7 MEETING WITH PAPAL NUNCIO 
 
REF: A. BAGHDAD 2060 
     B. BAGHDAD 2096 
 
BAGHDAD 00002148  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: By Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
. 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C)  Archbishop Chullikatt, papal nuncio to Iraq, 
acknowledged that the Iraqi Christian community faced many 
challenges, but believes that these could be overcome with 
the right kind of support and assistance.  According to 
Chullikatt, Iraqi Christians' number one concern is security, 
followed by better public services, and the just resolution 
of property rights and legal issues.  Agreeing with the 
Ambassador that well-intentioned parties outside of Iraq were 
trying to impose solutions on Iraq's minorities, Chullikatt 
stressed that neither Iraqi bishops nor the Holy See support 
a Christian autonomous zone or special Christian security 
forces.  Chullikatt also called for additional humanitarian 
aid for Iraqi minority refugees, including Christians, in 
neighboring countries, so that they would have an incentive 
to stay near Iraq.  Chullikatt accepted Post's offer to 
facilitate joint visits to Christian sites in Baghdad and 
elsewhere in Iraq (ref A) and noted that two senior Vatican 
officials were thinking of visiting Iraq.  Regarding the 
notion of a conference on Iraqi minorities, Chullikatt 
insisted it needed to be held within Iraq itself were it to 
have credibility and not alienate Iraqi leadership.  He 
agreed with the Ambassador that a more pro-active approach to 
supporting minorities is needed on the part of the GOI and 
KRG and promised to provide us with additional information on 
specific minority problems and needs so that Post could use 
it in proposing corrective action to GOI and KRG leadership. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
DISCREET ASSISTANCE FOR VISITS WELCOME 
-------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  In a July 7 meeting with the Ambassador, Deputy 
PolCounselor, and Poloff (notetaker), Papal Nuncio Archbishop 
Francis Assisi Chullikat accepted the Embassy's offer of 
logistical assistance to visit Christian religious sites in 
Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, noting that it would be very 
useful to see and report back to the Vatican what is going on 
on the ground.  Chullikatt added that Cardinal Leonardo 
Sandri, who heads the Congregation for Oriental Churches, was 
considering a visit to Iraq, as was Cardinal Renato Martino, 
President of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace and 
former Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United 
Nations in New York.  Chullikatt said he encouraged 
high-ranking Vatican officials to visit Iraq, pointing out 
the experience would better help them handle media inquiries 
about the situation of Christians in Iraq.  He agreed with 
the Ambassador that such visits were a natural follow-on to 
PM Maliki's recent public pledges to support minorities. 
Chullikatt did not believe the Vatican would object to our 
logistical and security assistance for such visits, as long 
as it was very discreet. 
 
PRODDIING THE GOI AND KRG TO ACTION 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  Chullikatt acknowledged that it would be helpful for 
the Non-Muslim Endowment's Office to get funds in order to 
undertake Church restoration projects (ref B) and was 
gratified by the Ambassador's news that we were directly 
engaging the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's 
Office.  He noted that the governments of Sweden and Germany 
had also provided financial assistance for minorities, none 
of which had actually reached those populations, he claimed. 
He promised to provide us with details of these cases. 
Chullikatt said KRG Minister of Finance Sarkis Aghajan had 
explained KRG actions on behalf of Christians in the north in 
the way of security and housing.  According to Chullikatt, 
bishops in the north were generally satisfied with KRG 
assistance, although requests for schools and clinics in more 
remote areas of Dohuk had been turned down by Minister 
Sarkis, who cited limited resources.  Chullikatt said that 
Christians whose properties had been confiscated in the past 
still expected compensation from the KRG, but when they raise 
the issue to officials, are told that there are more pressing 
problems.  Chullikatt promised to find out how many families 
are claiming compensation, with details of their claims, so 
that this could be presented to the KRG, who may be trying to 
downplay the problem.  He commented that agreement on the 
principle of compensation could encourage Christian returnees 
to the region.  Resolving the exact mechanics of compensation 
could be left for a later date.  The more pressing concern 
 
BAGHDAD 00002148  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
for these displaced Christians was that they often had no 
home to which to return in the interim. 
 
SECURITY HEADS LIST OF PRIORITIES 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (C)  Chullikatt confirmed that while security for 
minorities, including Christians, is the top priority, there 
was no need for special Christian security forces to protect 
churches or Christian neighborhoods. The mere presence of 
regular police in an area would serve as an effective 
deterrent to harassment or criminal activity against them and 
their property.  Chullikatt advocated diversification of 
police patrols, noting that there was a security force 
presence surrounding mosques, but not around churches. 
Chullikatt said that when he had first arrived in Baghdad, 
the Apostolic Nunciature had no GOI-provided security; he 
spoke with the Ministry of the Interior, which then provided 
police protection.  Chullikatt will provide us with a list of 
areas in which he believes the GOI security presence is 
inadequate. 
 
IRAQI ISSUES SHOULD BE DISCUSSED IN IRAQ 
---------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C)  While Chullikatt agreed that a minorities conference 
could be helpful in focusing attention on the needs of Iraq's 
minorities, it would be inadvisable to hold such a conference 
in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere outside of Iraq. In his 
view, the immediate reaction would be that the U.S. was 
setting the agenda, and deciding the policies to be applied 
to Iraqis.  He further warned that any such conference held 
outside Iraq would risk becoming captive to diaspora figures 
whose views were not representative of Christians in Iraq and 
whose understanding of the situations was dated and skewed. 
Moreover, to be constructive, the Conference would require 
active participation by Iraqis on a national level.  The 
Nuncio added that he has consistently argued against holding 
church conferences or gatherings of Iraqi bishops in 
neighboring countries. 
 
6. (C)  Chullikatt noted that he is currently working on 
ensuring that certain types of legal cases, such as divorce, 
involving Christians are not referred to Sharia courts. 
Jordan, where the Chullikatt is also accredited as Nuncio, 
was a model in this regard, he said.  He said Christian 
leaders, both Catholic and Orthodox, were meeting in Baghdad 
on a bimonthly basis for discussion of the matter.  He also 
suggested that the right to religious instruction in Iraqi 
schools with Christian students was a live issue.  The 
previous GoI practice had been to authorize limited 
instruction in schools where Christians make up more than 20 
percent of students. 
 
NO PRECISE POPULATION NUMBERS AVAILABLE 
--------------------------------------- 
 
7. (C)  Chullikatt said that reliable figures for the number 
of Christians in Iraq, and their distribution among the 
various sects, are simply not available.  He noted that 
according to his estimation, 70 percent of Iraqi Christians 
are Chaldean, whereas if one asked Chaldean Patriarch 
Cardinal Delly, his answer would be 80 percent.  Chullikatt 
believes that half of Iraq's Christians are outside of Iraq. 
This has resulted in the closure of many parishes, which work 
directly with the people and have direct knowledge of their 
needs. 
 
AUTONOMOUS ZONE NOT THE SOLUTION, KEEP IRAQIS NEARBY 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
8. (C)  Chullikatt stressed that the Holy See and the Bishops 
in Iraq do not support the creation of a Christian autonomous 
zone in the Ninewa plain.  Not only is the Ninewa plain not 
100 percent Christian, the very idea contradicts the notion 
of a new Iraq where all citizens are equal.  He termed the 
autonomous zone plan a well-intentioned, but unrealistic and 
inadvisable, proposal from outside of Iraq, including by 
voices in the Chaldean diaspora who did not possess an 
accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. 
 
9. (C)  With regard to Christian refugees, Chullikatt said 
the Church had appealed to a number of governments (including 
those of Sweden, Germany, and France) for additional 
humanitarian assistance for the minority refugees in Syria, 
Jordan and Lebanon.  The aim is to ameliorate the conditions 
of refugees nearby, for instance by facilitating the right of 
their children to schooling, and thus deter them from 
continuing their migration and requesting asylum in western 
countries, which in the long term would be far more 
 
BAGHDAD 00002148  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
burdensome to the international community.  The hope is that 
refugees who remain in the immediate proximity of Iraq would 
be more likely to eventually return to their homes in Iraq. 
CROCKER

 



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