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WikiLeaks: 2009-06-26: 09VATICAN78: Holy See: Scenesetter for the President's July 10 Visit

by WikiLeaks. 09VATICAN78: June 26, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 08:28 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09VATICAN78 2009-06-26 16:37 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
DE RUEHROV #0078/01 1771637
O P 261637Z JUN 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 VATICAN 000078 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  6/26/2019 
     B. B) VATICAN 63 
     C. C) VATICAN 59 
     D. D) VATICAN 52 
     E. E) VATICAN 38 
VATICAN 00000078  001.2 OF 005 
CLASSIFIED BY: Julieta Valls Noyes, CDA, EXEC, State. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
Mr. President, it's an honor to welcome you and your family to 
the Vatican, the world's smallest sovereign state, and one with 
global clout. 
1. (C/NF) Holy See officials also are pleased you are visiting. 
Your meeting with Pope Benedict XVI will be an opportunity to 
discuss our shared commitments to overarching goals such as 
peace, justice, development, human dignity, and inter-faith 
understanding.  From the Vatican's perspective, it will also 
provide a forum to discuss sensitive bioethical issues in a 
mutually respectful way.  In your meeting with him, or possibly 
with other Vatican officials on the margins, you may cover other 
topics of special interest, such as the Middle East, Iraq, 
immigration, and the environment. Your discussions at the Holy 
See will help deepen our mutual collaboration on issues around 
the world.  End Summary. 
Context for Your Visit 
2. (C/NF) The Vatican is second only to the United States in the number of countries with which it enjoys diplomatic relations (188 and 177 respectively), and there are Catholic priests, nuns and lay people in every country on the planet.  As a result, the Holy See is interested and well informed about developments all over the globe.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of formal relations between the U.S. and Holy See. The Holy See is the global government of the Catholic Church, which it operates from Vatican City State, a sovereign territory of a quarter of a square mile. 
3. (C/NF) The Holy See in many ways welcomed your election, as 
demonstrated by the Pope's immediate letter of congratulation. 
Vatican officials have been impressed by many of your 
initiatives, especially on foreign policy.  The Vatican 
newspaper, the "Osservatore Romano," has welcomed your positions 
on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, outreach to Muslims, 
disarmament, Cuba and the environment.  The Holy See has 
appreciated your multilateralism and focus on human rights, 
including your decisions to run for the Human Rights Council and 
close the Guantanamo detainee facility.  Nevertheless, although 
it does not generally express them publicly, the Vatican also 
has profound concerns about your Administration's positions on 
abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  The Vatican has 
allowed the American Catholic Church to take the lead in 
enunciating these concerns.  This is a tactical decision, and 
should not be interpreted as a divergence of views between Rome 
and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  The 
Vatican trusts the USCCB, is proud of the work that Catholic 
organizations do in the U.S., and relies on the generosity of 
American Catholics to support the Vatican and Catholic causes 
worldwide.   On balance, the Vatican regards your Presidency 
favorably and will seek to focus more on the areas of policy 
convergence between us than on the issues that divide us. 
Pope Benedict XVI 
4. (C/NF) The Pope has had a rocky year, having confronted 
controversies about Catholic-Jewish relations and his views on 
AIDS prevention, and breakdowns in internal Vatican 
communications related to the controversies.   At the same time, 
he also took crucial, successful trips to the Middle East and 
Africa.  He is looking forward to meeting you.  The Pope 
genuinely likes Americans and the United States, and enjoyed his 
visit there last year.  He admires the U.S. model of secularism, 
where the church and state are separate but which he says 
"allows for professing belief in God and respects the public 
role of religion and churches."   The Pope has made promotion of 
international religious freedom a central objective of his 
papacy, and appreciates U.S. support for this goal.  As the 
spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide and enjoying 
VATICAN 00000078  002.2 OF 005 
respect as well from non-Catholics, the Pope wields an 
unparalleled moral megaphone.  He uses it carefully, speaking 
publicly in generic, neutral terms about the need for peace and 
social justice rather than criticizing individual states. 
Behind closed doors, he sometimes takes on specific issues more 
directly. In that context, a Vatican official had told us that 
the Pope probably will raise abortion, embryonic stem cell 
research, and social justice issues -- especially immigration -- 
with you. 
Bioethical Issues 
5. (C/NF) The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong. 
Vatican officials grudgingly accept that abortion is legal in 
the U.S., but oppose making it more widely available. 
Internationally, the Vatican would forcefully oppose USG 
advocacy of legalizing abortion elsewhere, financing foreign 
abortions, or making abortion an international "reproductive 
right." The Vatican would welcome an honest, respectful dialogue 
with the United States on abortion.  Vatican officials followed 
your Notre Dame speech closely.  While clearly not agreeing with 
everything you said, they were very pleased by your calls to 
reduce the number of women seeking abortions, make adoption more 
available, and provide support for pregnant women.  They 
appreciated your commitment to "honor the conscience of those 
who disagree with abortion," and especially welcomed the call 
for a sensible conscience clause for health care workers. 
6. (C/NF) The Vatican opposes embryonic stem cell research on 
the grounds that it leads to the destruction of human embryos. 
It has no objection to non-embryonic stem cell research.  As new 
techniques now allow research with adult stem cells, the Vatican 
says the use of embryonic stem cells is not justified 
scientifically either. 
Financial Crisis, the Poor, and Immigration 
7. (C/NF) The Vatican has been very vocal about protecting the 
world's most vulnerable people from harm caused by the global 
financial crisis.  In a letter to UK PM Gordon Brown, for 
example, the Pope wrote, "Development aid, including the 
commercial and financial conditions favorable to less developed 
countries and the cancellation of the external debt of the 
poorest and most indebted countries, has not been the cause of 
the crisis and out of fundamental justice must not be its 
victim."  The Vatican criticizes "consumerist" societies, 
strongly supports the UN Millennium Development Goals, and hopes 
all countries will redouble efforts to meet their MDG pledges. 
The Vatican has long supported freer migration between nations 
to permit the poor to begin new lives.  The USCCB has made 
immigration reform a priority in the U.S., and the Pope will 
likely mention this in his discussions with you.  The Pope is 
expected to issue the second "encyclical" (letter addressed to 
the whole world about pressing moral issues) of his papacy 
sometime during the week before your meeting.  It will cover 
social justice concerns, and the Pope will likely mention it to 
you.  (Embassy will forward a copy to the White House as soon as 
it is available.) 
Food Security 
8. (C/NF) Similarly, the Vatican is very worried about declining 
nutrition in the poorest countries.  The Vatican has not taken a 
formal position on genetically modified (GM) crops -- some 
Church leaders oppose them because GM technology is mostly in 
the hands of multinational corporations, while others support 
their use as an element in a larger strategy to address world 
hunger.  In his World Food Day message in October 2008, the Pope 
noted that the world can produce enough food to meet increasing 
needs, but said factors like speculation in foodstuffs, corrupt 
public officials, and growing investments in weapons prevented 
food from reaching the hungry.  He called on world leaders to 
conclude negotiations to ensure food security, and to pursue 
relations "based on the reciprocal exchange of knowledge, 
values, rapid assistance and respect." 
Environmental Issues 
VATICAN 00000078  003.2 OF 005 
9. (C/NF) The Pope speaks frequently about the importance of 
caring for God's creation.  Vatican City is the world's first 
carbon-neutral state, offsetting its emissions through use of 
renewable energy and a reforestation project.  It has not, 
however, taken a position on carbon emissions trade.  The 
Vatican is now using solar energy to power some facilities and 
is reducing its energy consumption overall, planning to be 20% 
energy self-sufficient by 2020.  The Holy See is an active 
observer at the UN Environment Program, Food and Agriculture 
Organization and other international fora, and will participate 
in the December Copenhagen Conference also as an observer.  The 
Pope has even joined with other religious leaders like 
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to issue moral appeals to their 
faithful on humanity's responsibility to be good stewards of 
nature.  The Vatican's environmental message is consistent: 
nature is a gift from God, so human beings have a responsibility 
to care for and not to abuse it. 
Arms Reduction 
10. (C/NF) The Vatican welcomed your call to eliminate nuclear 
weapons, and has long advocated arms reductions and 
non-proliferation.  The Holy See was one of the initial 
signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 
2008 - and ratified it the same day.  (The Vatican of course has 
no such weapons itself and becomes party to such agreements to 
serve as a moral example.)  The Pope has advocated the 
elimination of land mines, and the Holy See is a party to the 
Mine Ban Treaty.  Speaking at the UN in May, the Vatican envoy 
reaffirmed the Vatican's support for nuclear non-proliferation 
and outlined five steps for nations to take to eliminate the 
nuclear weapons threat: adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban 
Treaty, opening negotiations for a Fissile Material Cutoff 
Treaty, ending reliance on nuclear arms as part of military 
policy among nuclear states, giving the International Atomic 
Energy Association oversight over peaceful use of nuclear energy 
and expanding it role to include non-proliferation, and 
developing a new international agreement on nuclear fuel. 
Inter-faith Understanding 
11. (C/NF) The Vatican praised your Cairo speech, especially the 
sections on religious freedom and diversity, the 
Israeli-Palestinian situation, and Iran.  The Vatican itself has 
worked for decades on improving understanding with the Islamic 
world, including through a pontifical institute for the study of 
Arabic and Islam.  It stepped up inter-faith discussions after 
the September 11 attacks, and then again following the negative 
Muslim reaction to a 2006 speech by the Pope that some argued 
demeaned Islam.  Key dialogues are with: the "group of 138" - 
moderate Muslim scholars and clerics - supported by  Jordan; 
Iranian clerics; Al-Azar University in Cairo, which co-hosted 
your speech; and Saudi authorities.  The Vatican's primary 
objective for these talks is to promote religious freedom.   The 
Holy See does not believe theological agreements with Islam are 
possible, but is convinced that better mutual knowledge will 
allay suspicions and facilitate peaceful co-existence, which 
they consider an even higher goal than simple "tolerance." 
Another Vatican goal is supporting pragmatic inter-faith 
cooperation on social welfare programs.  The Vatican believes 
governments should ensure religious freedom, but not be directly 
involved in interreligious dialogue (which by its nature should 
be between religious leaders). 
Middle East Peace Process 
12. (C/NF) Peace in the "Holy Land" is one of the Vatican's top 
priorities, and was one of the central themes of the Pope's May 
visit to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. 
Despite criticism from some media and extremists, the trip was 
substantively successful.  The Pope avoided any major mis-steps 
(always a difficult prospect for a Pontiff in visiting this 
area) and delivered the message that a two-state solution is the 
key to peace.  He emphasized that the use of violence to achieve 
political objectives is morally unacceptable.  He called for 
VATICAN 00000078  004.2 OF 005 
inter-faith dialogue and protection of Christian minorities. 
His messages largely mirror the U.S. approach to the region. 
This provides opportunities for further engagement with the U.S. 
in advancing peace initiatives there. 
Iraq and Christians 
13. (C/NF) The Holy See publicly opposed U.S. intervention in 
Iraq.  Once fighting began, however, the Vatican focus shifted 
to securing peace and justice, rebuilding the Iraqi economy, and 
protecting minority Christian communities.  Holy See officials 
welcome your proposals for responsible withdrawal of U.S. 
troops, provided this does not create a security vacuum, 
particularly in Christian areas.  The Vatican appreciates U.S. 
resettlement of the most vulnerable Iraqi victims of persecution 
-- including many Christians-- but seeks to avoid large-scale 
exodus of Christians from that country.  (Regional bishops 
estimate as many as half of the region's 300-400,000 Chaldean 
Christians have left, and believe they will not return.)  The 
Vatican was deeply concerned last fall that quotas set for 
Iraq's provincial elections system might reduce Christian 
representation in local governments, fueling further emigration. 
 It took the unusual step of formally asking the USG to press 
the Iraqis to increase the quotas for Christians.  Despite a 
boycott threat, Christians ultimately participated in the 
provincial elections.  The future of the Christian communities 
in Iraq will remain high on the Vatican agenda before and after 
the U.S. military drawdown. 
14. (C/NF) The Pope travelled to Africa in March.  He grabbed 
headlines with an interview he gave en route saying that the use 
of condoms contributed to the spread of AIDS.  The Vatican later 
clarified the Pope's comments, saying that condoms are not 
always 100% effective and noting studies that show condom 
distribution increases promiscuity.  Benedict XVI has called on 
world leaders to pay special attention to the needs of the 
Continent - where one in four people suffer from chronic hunger 
-- this year.  In a letter to the German President, Pope 
Benedict wrote that the "support of the international community 
is needed...precisely because the current financial and economic 
crisis is particularly affecting Africa."  The Pontiff has 
pledged the Church's continued assistance to the weakest sectors 
of Africa's population.   (The UN estimates that Catholic 
charities provide 17% of health care in sub-Saharan Africa; the 
Church also runs schools, homes for the aged, re-integration 
centers for child soldiers and other programs there.)  Bishops 
from Africa will gather in Rome in October for a month to 
discuss needs on the continent. 
15. (C/NF) The Church is the only major institution in Cuba that 
is independent from the government.  The Vatican hopes for a 
transition to democracy in Cuba, but is not at the forefront of 
that battle because it is more concerned about protecting its 
small space for operations in Cuba.  The Vatican opposes the 
U.S. embargo, which it believes hurts poor Cubans 
disproportionately.   It welcomed your decision to remove limits 
on family visitation and remittances.  Vatican officials believe 
that exchanging the five Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. for 
political prisoners in Cuba is worth discussing, and have urged 
the U.S. to grant visas to the wives of the spies to allow them 
to visit. 
Turkey EU Accession 
16. (C/NF) As Cardinal Ratzinger, the Pope had expressed 
uneasiness about the notion Turkish accession to the EU.  The 
Holy See's position now is that as a non-EU member the Vatican 
has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey's membership.  The 
Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special 
relationship short of membership with the EU, but Vatican 
Secretary of State (Prime Minister-equivalent) Bertone has 
stated that Turkey should become a member if it meets all the EU 
VATICAN 00000078  005.2 OF 005 
criteria - including full protection of human rights and 
religious freedoms. 
17. (C/NF) The Holy See is deeply concerned about the recent 
violence and ongoing human rights violations in Iran.  It has 
been publicly silent to date on the current crisis, in part to 
preserve its ability to act as an intermediary if an 
international crisis emerges.  (The Vatican helped secure the 
release of British sailors detained in Iranian waters in April 
2007.)  It is unclear how much clout the Vatican really has with 
Iran, however. 


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