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Cablegate: Wha a/S Shannon Discusses Cuba, Paraguay, Bolivia, And

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DE RUEHROV #0042/01 1581527
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P 061527Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0943
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0977

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000042

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/5/2033
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF UN CU PA NU VT
SUBJECT: WHA A/S SHANNON DISCUSSES CUBA, PARAGUAY, BOLIVIA, AND
D'ESCOTO WITH HOLY SEE DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER

REF: AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 00500

VATICAN 00000042 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael P. Foley, ADCM, Embassy Vatican.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: The Holy See wants a peaceful transition to
democracy in Cuba and will continue to raise the issue of
political prisoners with Havana, but believes that change will
be slow. For the Holy See, social justice and addressing
inequality are key to the success of democracy in the
hemisphere. The Holy See supports the positive role that the
Church can play in addressing social and political tensions,
such as in Bolivia, but notes that having clerics assume
political positions -- such as in Paraguay and Nicaragua -- is
against canon law and Church teachings. Nevertheless, the Holy
See will try to avoid controversies regarding President Lugo's
election, and over Father d'Escoto's nomination to preside over
the UN General Assembly.

2. (C) WHA Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon met with Holy See
deputy foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, on May 4.
A/S Shannon was in Rome to participate in an Embassy Vatican
conference on Catholic social thinking and Latin American
influences in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (septel).

Cuba

----

3. (C) Parolin said that the Holy See continues to monitor the
situation in Cuba. While some say that Raul Castro will only
introduce cosmetic changes, the Holy See is "a bit more
optimistic" that there may be more substantial changes, even if
at a very slow pace. Parolin agreed that there seems to be no
desire on the part of the regime for structural changes, and
that for this reason some reforms may be aimed at protecting
rather than transforming the system. Cuban government officials
are not willing to speak about a transition. At the same time,
he added, many Cubans are more preoccupied with access to basic
necessities than about immediate political change.

4. (C) Parolin reaffirmed that the Holy See wishes Cubans to
enjoy peace and democracy. A political change in Cuba must come
from Cuba itself, not the outside, and in this regard he agreed
that the regime should engage in dialogue with dissidents.
While the Holy See does not align itself with any particular
political group, it believes that peaceful initiatives for
change -- such as the Varela project -- are positive. Parolin
confirmed that Cardinal Bertone had raised the issue of
political prisoners with the Cuban government during his
February 20-26 visit to the island. A/S Shannon underscored the
importance of the Holy See urging the release of the political
prisoners at every opportunity.

Bolivia

-------

5. (C) Parolin welcomes what he sees as a change of attitude of
President Evo Morales with respect to the Catholic Church in
Bolivia, and how Church officials there are playing a positive
role in addressing social and political tensions. Morales had
initially pushed aside relations with the Church, and engaged in
a very confrontational path to implement his economic reforms.
Parolin added that, while the goal of addressing the needs of
indigenous populations and correcting deep socioeconomic
inequalities is a legitimate and commendable aspiration,
Morales' means had been ineffective, something he may now
realize.

6. (C) Parolin was pleased that La Paz had named a new
Ambassador to the Holy See who is both close to Morales and "a
good Catholic" who was educated in Catholic institutions.
Parolin said that President Morales had requested a meeting with
the Pope, adding that such a meeting may not be imminent because
the Pope already has many such requests from other heads of
State.

The social role of the Church

-----------------------------

7. (C) Parolin welcomed and strongly agreed with A/S Shannon's
comments on social justice as crucial to democracy in the
region. Parolin lamented that a continent with such a great
number of Christians, mostly Catholics, is also the one where
inequality between the rich and the poor is greatest. The
Church, he added, has a role to play in this regard, but at the
social and moral level: it is up to lay Catholics, not the
clergy, to take the commitment to social justice to the
political arena.


VATICAN 00000042 002.2 OF 002


8. (C) Parolin lamented that Bishop Lugo had decided to
contravene canon law and Church teachings by running for office
in Paraguay. The election of Lugo represents a challenge for
the Holy See, which is sympathetic to his discourse on human
dignity -- and grateful for his conciliatory statements of love
for the Church -- but disappointed by his decision and concerned
that others may emulate him.

9. (C) Parolin said that the Holy See does not wish to create a
controversy over Lugo's election. He speculated that the
appropriate Holy See dicastery (the Congregation for Bishops)
might agree to Lugo's request for a more permanent dispensation
from his clerical status, a request that had been previously
denied. (Note: Bishop Lugo is currently suspended "a divinis", a
serious sanction that forbids him from carrying on his episcopal
responsibilities and which is generally a punishment for clergy
who have acted in a way inconsistent with their religious
vocation. End note.)

10. (C) Parolin asked A/S Shannon for our views on Nicaragua's
Father D'Escoto becoming President of the UN General Assembly
(reftel), and confided that "we, too (are horrified)" by it. He
added that the Holy See would keep a low profile on the matter,
and thought that the USG approach to the issue was wise (note:
D'Escoto is suspended "a divinis" and thus forbidden from
exercising regular priestly duties, but he is still a priest.
End note.)

Comment

-------

11. (C) Parolin was genuinely pleased with A/S Shannon's
exposition of the linkage between democracy and social justice.
A/S Shannon's message was equally well received, later in the
day, by Latin American Ambassadors and the 120-plus audience at
the Embassy-sponsored conference on human rights (septel).

12. (C) For some Holy See officials and Catholic NGO and lay
movements in Rome and beyond, USG interests for the region are
self-serving (in areas such as drug reduction or security),
driven by domestic lobbyists (in the case of Cuba), or
insensitive to the plight of the most vulnerable (in urging
structural reforms or rapid trade liberalization). A/S
Shannon's message that we share a concern for equality and
social justice in Latin America, and welcome the participation
of broad segments of historically underprivileged sectors of
Latin American societies in their respective countries'
political systems, challenges this bias and helps to refocus the
attention and responsibility for Latin America's future on their
political leaders.
GLENDON

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