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Cablegate: The Vatican's ""Other"" Interests in the Middle East

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 001171

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY (SIGNATURE LINE CHANGE)

DEPT FOR EUR/WE (D.MENUTTI)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2012
TAGS: EG IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY VT VTEG VTEG VTEG

SUBJECT: THE VATICAN'S ""OTHER"" INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

CLASSIFIED BY: AMBASSADOR JIM NICHOLSON FOR REASONS 1.5 (A) AND (D).


1.(C) SUMMARY: THIS IS AN OVERVIEW OF THE VATICAN'S INTEREST
IN THE MIDDLE EAST, OUTSIDE OF THE ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN DISPUTE
AND THE STATUS OF JERUSALEM. DCM RECENTLY MET WITH NEW
VATICAN MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR, TOMASSO COPPOLA, MONSIGNOR
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061557Z
JOHAN BONNY, A CHIEF NEGOTIATOR IN THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY, AND MEMBERS OF THE ARAB DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY
ACCREDITED TO THE VATICAN. THE VATICAN'S FOREIGN POLICY IS
GENERALLY FOUNDED ON ""DEFENDING THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN
PERSON"", AND IS THUS LARGELY CONGRUENT WITH USG INTERESTS.
IN THE MIDDLE EAST, HOWEVER, IT HAS A NUMBER OF PARTICULAR
INTERESTS, SOME WHERE WE CAN EXPECT TO AGREE, OTHERS WHERE
OUR INTERESTS ARE STARKLY OPPOSITE. THE VATICAN'S INTERESTS
IN THIS REGION ARISE FROM AN INDIGENOUS CONSTITUENCY (E.G.
CHALDEANS IN IRAQ) AS WELL AS DIALOG WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH
OF THE EAST AND THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES OF THE REGION
(EG. THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH). COUNTRIES OF INTEREST ARE
MOST NOTABLY LEBANON, IRAQ, SYRIA AND TO A LESSER DEGREE
JORDAN AND EGYPT. THE LACK OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR THE
FOREIGN CATHOLICS (MOSTLY FILIPINO GUEST WORKERS) IN SAUDI
ARABIA WILL REMAIN AN ISSUE OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE FOR THE
VATICAN. FROM A STRICTLY GEOPOLITICAL PERSPECTIVE THE
VATICAN WILL ALSO STRIVE TO HAVE GOOD RELATIONS WITH IRAN.
END SUMMARY



2.(C) CONCERN FOR CATHOLIC MINORITIES

AS WITH ANY NATION-STATE, THE VATICAN STRIVES TO PROTECT ITS
""CITIZENS"" OVERSEAS. FOR THE VATICAN, THIS
CITIZEN-CONSTITUENCY IS COMPOSED OF CATHOLICS. IN THE MIDDLE
EAST THE COUNTRY OF PRIME CONCERN IN THIS REGARD IS LEBANON.
ACCORDING TO VATICAN ISSUED FIGURES, THERE ARE 1.9 MILLION
CATHOLICS IN LEBANON, 311,000 CATHOLICS IN SYRIA, AND 277,000
CATHOLICS IN IRAQ. THE VATICAN DOES NOT CONSIDER LEBANON A
MUSLIM COUNTRY WITH A CATHOLIC MINORITY, BUT A COUNTRY IN
WHICH CATHOLICS ARE EQUAL PARTNERS. IT SEES LEBANON AS A
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061557Z
COUNTRY WHICH SHOULD SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE FOR
CHRISTIAN/ISLAMIC COEXISTENCE. FOREIGN MINISTER TAURAN, AS
WELL AS MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR COPPOLA HAVE BOTH SERVED IN
LEBANON, AND ARE PERSONALLY INTERESTED IN THE LEBANESE
SITUATION. ALTHOUGH, ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL VATICAN FIGURES,
THERE ARE MORE CATHOLICS IN SYRIA THAN IRAQ, THE VATICAN IS
MORE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE CHALDEAN CATHOLICS IN
IRAQ THAN WITH THAT OF THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITIES IN SYRIA.
THIS IS BECAUSE THE VATICAN SEES THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN ISLAMIC
FUNDAMENTALIST REGIME COMING TO POWER AS HIGHER IN IRAQ THAN
IN SYRIA. THERE IS ALSO A SMALL CATHOLIC MINORITY IN JORDAN
(72,000 ACCORDING TO VATICAN FIGURES) COMPOSED OF ETHNIC
PALESTINIANS.



3.(C) DIALOG WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST AND THE
ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES

THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST WAS THE FIRST MAJOR CHRISTIAN
BODY TO FALL OUT ON COMMUNION WITH ROME. THIS OCCURRED IN
THE 5TH CENTURY OVER THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES. ITS SEAT WAS
MOVED FROM PERSIA TO BAGHDAD IN 766 WHERE IT HAS REMAINED.
IN 1553 A GROUP FROM WITHIN THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH REENTERED
COMMUNION WITH ROME, WHICH WAS THE START OF THE CHALDEAN
CATHOLIC CHURCH. THE VATICAN IS CLOSER TO ""REUNIFICATION""
WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST THAN WITH ANY OTHER BODY
OF EASTERN CHURCHES. IN 1994, POPE JOHN PAUL II AND THE
ASSYRIAN PATRIARCH SIGNED A DECLARATION WHICH BASICALLY ENDED
ALL THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES. DIALOG CONTINUES FOR FULL
REUNIFICATION. THUS, IN ADDITION TO PROTECTING THE CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY OF IRAQ, THE VATICAN NEEDS GOOD RELATIONS WITH THE
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 04 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061557Z
IRAQI GOVERNMENT FOR AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH NEGOTIATIONS
WITH THE ""OFFICIAL"" IRAQI CHRISTIAN CHURCH CAN CONTINUE.

THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IS COMPOSED OF SIX
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL CHURCHES WHICH ARE IN COMMUNION WITH
EACH OTHER, BUT NOT WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST, THE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, OR THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES (E.G. GREEK,
RUSSIAN, ETC). THIS BODY BROKE WITH THE MAIN BODY OF THE
CHURCH (AT THAT TIME LOCATED IN ROME AND CONSTANTINOPLE) IN
THE FIFTH CENTURY, APPROXIMATELY 30 YEARS AFTER THE ASSYRIAN
CHURCH'S BREAK. THIS ORIENTAL ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IS COMPOSED
OF THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH, THE COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
(EGYPT), THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH, THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH, THE MALANKARA ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH (INDIA), AND THE
ERITREAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. THE VATICAN'S DIALOG WITH THIS
COMMUNITY IS NOT AS FAR ALONG AS WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH,

CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL PTQ9479

PAGE 01 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061557Z
ACTION EUR-00

INFO LOG-00 COR-01 NP-00 AMAD-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00
DS-00 FBIE-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 VCE-00
NEA-00 NSAE-00 SSO-00 SS-00 T-00 EPAE-00 SNIS-00
NISC-00 DSCC-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /001W
------------------705EC5 061557Z /38
O 061335Z MAR 02 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY ROME
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 02 VATICAN 001171

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY (SIGNATURE LINE CHANGE)

DEPT FOR EUR/WE (D.MENUTTI)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2012
TAGS: EG IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY VT VTEG VTEG VTEG
SUBJECT: THE VATICAN'S ""OTHER"" INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BUT MUCH FURTHER ALONG THAN WITH THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. THAT
SAID, THE VATICAN HAS TO TREAD CAREFULLY IN THIS AREA. AFTER
SEVERAL JOINT DECLARATIONS WITH THE ARMENIAN CHURCH, COPTIC
POPE SHENOUDA III OF EGYPT DECLARED THAT DIALOG WITH THE
VATICAN MUST BE DONE ON A FULL COMMUNITY BASIS, AND NOT BY
INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL MEMBERS. THUS, THE VATICAN NOW HAS TO BE
MORE SENSITIVE TO THE DESIRES OF THE EGYPTIAN COPTIC
COMMUNITY AND THE SYRIAN ORTODOX CHURCH IF IT WANTS PROGRESS
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061557Z
IN THE OVERALL DIALOG.


4.(C) WHAT ARE THE VATICAN'S INTERESTS AND WHAT SHOULD THE
U.S. EXPECT

--


LEBANON: THE VATICAN WANTS TO MAINTAIN A STRONG CHRISTIAN
PRESENCE IN A UNIFIED, INDEPENDENT LEBANON. IT WILL
CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR THE REMOVAL OF ALL FOREIGN TROOPS (I.E.
SYRIAN) AND REINTEGRATION OF THE SOUTH INTO THE COUNTRY. WE
SHOULD EXPECT THE VATICAN TO CONTINUE TO ASK THE UNITED
STATES TO HAVE STRONGER, BETTER CONTACTS WITH MARONITE
PATRIARCH SAFIR. WE SHOULD ALSO EXPECT THE VATICAN TO
EXPRESS CONCERN OVER WHAT THEY SEE AS RETALIATION AGAINST THE
CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN LEBANON WHO HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF
COLLABORATING WITH THE ISRAELIS.



IRAQ: IRAQ WILL REMAIN A BONE OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE
UNITED STATES AND VATICAN. WE SHOULD EXPECT THE VATICAN TO
STRONGLY CONDEMN THE CONTINUED EMBARGO AS ""HARMFUL"" TO THE
IRAQI POPULATION. IN ITS EYES, THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO
SADDAM HUSSEIN EXCEPT AN ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST REGIME. THUS
FOR REASONS OF PROTECTING THE CATHOLICS IN IRAQ, AS WELL AS
CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE
ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST, THE VATICAN WILL BE AMONG THE
LEAST VOCAL INTERNATIONAL CRITICS OF THE CURRENT REGIME. WE
SHOULD EXPECT VOCAL, PUBLIC CRITICISM OF ANY MILITARY ACTION
AGAINST IRAQ.



SYRIA: BECAUSE DAMASCUS IS THE SEAT OF THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH, AND ON ACCOUNT OF THE PRESENCE OF A LARGE CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY, THE VATICAN IS CONTINUE TO SEEK CORRECT, GOOD
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061557Z
RELATIONS WITH SYRIA. AS IT DOES NOT FEAR A FUNDAMENTALIST
TAKE OVER, IT CAN BE EXPECTED TO BE LESS SENSITIVE TO
CRITICISM OF SYRIAN POLICY THAN TO IRAQI POLICY. THAT SAID,
VATICAN FRUSTRATION OVER THE OVERT ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS OF
PRESIDENT ASSAD DURING THE POPE'S APRIL, 2001 VISIT TO SYRIA
HAVE SUBSIDED. IN FACT, THE POPE RECENTLY SUSPENDED HIS
LENTEN RETREAT (WHICH IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL) TO MEET ASSAD DURING
THE SYRIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO ROME;



IRAN: THE NUMBER OF CATHOLICS IS MINUSCULE (12,000 BY
VATICAN ESTIMATES). HOWEVER, THE VATICAN SEES IRAN AS A
PARTNER IN CATHOLIC/ISLAMIC DIALOG. IT WILL THEREFORE STRIVE
TO HAVE PROPER RELATIONS WITH THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN;

SAUDI ARABIA: THERE ARE OVER 1 MILLION FOREIGN CATHOLICS IN
SAUDI ARABIA. THE VATICAN WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE THEIR RIGHT
TO PRACTICE CATHOLICISM AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE. WE SHOULD
EXPECT THIS TO BE RAISED AT ANY MEETING BETWEEN A HIGH-LEVEL
U.S. GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL AND FOREIGN MINISTER TAURAN OR PRIME
MINISTER SODANO. NICHOLSON

CONFIDENTIAL

>
@@@OASYS@@@

CONFIDENTIAL PTQ8924

PAGE 01 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061421Z
ACTION EUR-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AMAD-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 DS-00
FBIE-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 VCE-00 NEA-00
NSAE-00 SSO-00 SS-00 EPAE-00 SNIS-00 NISC-00 DSCC-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 /000W
------------------704D53 061421Z /38
O 061335Z MAR 02
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY ROME
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 001171

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/WE (D.MENUTTI)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2012
TAGS: EG IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY VT VTEG VTEG VTEG
SUBJECT: THE VATICAN'S ""OTHER"" INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

CLASSIFIED BY: AMBASSADOR JIM NICHOLSON FOR REASONS 1.5 (A) AND (D).



1.(C) SUMMARY: THIS IS AN OVERVIEW OF THE VATICAN'S INTEREST
IN THE MIDDLE EAST, OUTSIDE OF THE ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN DISPUTE
AND THE STATUS OF JERUSALEM. DCM RECENTLY MET WITH NEW
VATICAN MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR, TOMASSO COPPOLA, MONSIGNOR
JOHAN BONNY, A CHIEF NEGOTIATOR IN THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY, AND MEMBERS OF THE ARAB DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061421Z
ACCREDITED TO THE VATICAN. THE VATICAN'S FOREIGN POLICY IS
GENERALLY FOUNDED ON ""DEFENDING THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN
PERSON"", AND IS THUS LARGELY CONGRUENT WITH USG INTERESTS.
IN THE MIDDLE EAST, HOWEVER, IT HAS A NUMBER OF PARTICULAR
INTERESTS, SOME WHERE WE CAN EXPECT TO AGREE, OTHERS WHERE
OUR INTERESTS ARE STARKLY OPPOSITE. THE VATICAN'S INTERESTS
IN THIS REGION ARISE FROM AN INDIGENOUS CONSTITUENCY (E.G.
CHALDEANS IN IRAQ) AS WELL AS DIALOG WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH
OF THE EAST AND THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES OF THE REGION
(EG. THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH). COUNTRIES OF INTEREST ARE
MOST NOTABLY LEBANON, IRAQ, SYRIA AND TO A LESSER DEGREE
JORDAN AND EGYPT. THE LACK OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR THE
FOREIGN CATHOLICS (MOSTLY FILIPINO GUEST WORKERS) IN SAUDI
ARABIA WILL REMAIN AN ISSUE OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE FOR THE
VATICAN. FROM A STRICTLY GEOPOLITICAL PERSPECTIVE THE
VATICAN WILL ALSO STRIVE TO HAVE GOOD RELATIONS WITH IRAN.
END SUMMARY



2.(C) CONCERN FOR CATHOLIC MINORITIES

AS WITH ANY NATION-STATE, THE VATICAN STRIVES TO PROTECT ITS
""CITIZENS"" OVERSEAS. FOR THE VATICAN, THIS
CITIZEN-CONSTITUENCY IS COMPOSED OF CATHOLICS. IN THE MIDDLE
EAST THE COUNTRY OF PRIME CONCERN IN THIS REGARD IS LEBANON.
ACCORDING TO VATICAN ISSUED FIGURES, THERE ARE 1.9 MILLION
CATHOLICS IN LEBANON, 311,000 CATHOLICS IN SYRIA, AND 277,000
CATHOLICS IN IRAQ. THE VATICAN DOES NOT CONSIDER LEBANON A
MUSLIM COUNTRY WITH A CATHOLIC MINORITY, BUT A COUNTRY IN
WHICH CATHOLICS ARE EQUAL PARTNERS. IT SEES LEBANON AS A
COUNTRY WHICH SHOULD SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE FOR
CHRISTIAN/ISLAMIC COEXISTENCE. FOREIGN MINISTER TAURAN, AS
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061421Z
WELL AS MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR COPPOLA HAVE BOTH SERVED IN
LEBANON, AND ARE PERSONALLY INTERESTED IN THE LEBANESE
SITUATION. ALTHOUGH, ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL VATICAN FIGURES,
THERE ARE MORE CATHOLICS IN SYRIA THAN IRAQ, THE VATICAN IS
MORE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE CHALDEAN CATHOLICS IN
IRAQ THAN WITH THAT OF THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITIES IN SYRIA.
THIS IS BECAUSE THE VATICAN SEES THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN ISLAMIC
FUNDAMENTALIST REGIME COMING TO POWER AS HIGHER IN IRAQ THAN
IN SYRIA. THERE IS ALSO A SMALL CATHOLIC MINORITY IN JORDAN
(72,000 ACCORDING TO VATICAN FIGURES) COMPOSED OF ETHNIC
PALESTINIANS.



3.(C) DIALOG WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST AND THE
ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES

THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST WAS THE FIRST MAJOR CHRISTIAN
BODY TO FALL OUT ON COMMUNION WITH ROME. THIS OCCURRED IN
THE 5TH CENTURY OVER THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES. ITS SEAT WAS
MOVED FROM PERSIA TO BAGHDAD IN 766 WHERE IT HAS REMAINED.
IN 1553 A GROUP FROM WITHIN THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH REENTERED
COMMUNION WITH ROME, WHICH WAS THE START OF THE CHALDEAN
CATHOLIC CHURCH. THE VATICAN IS CLOSER TO ""REUNIFICATION""
WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST THAN WITH ANY OTHER BODY
OF EASTERN CHURCHES. IN 1994, POPE JOHN PAUL II AND THE
ASSYRIAN PATRIARCH SIGNED A DECLARATION WHICH BASICALLY ENDED
ALL THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES. DIALOG CONTINUES FOR FULL
REUNIFICATION. THUS, IN ADDITION TO PROTECTING THE CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY OF IRAQ, THE VATICAN NEEDS GOOD RELATIONS WITH THE
IRAQI GOVERNMENT FOR AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH NEGOTIATIONS
WITH THE ""OFFICIAL"" IRAQI CHRISTIAN CHURCH CAN CONTINUE.
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 04 VATICA 01171 01 OF 02 061421Z

THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IS COMPOSED OF SIX
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL CHURCHES WHICH ARE IN COMMUNION WITH
EACH OTHER, BUT NOT WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST, THE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, OR THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES (E.G. GREEK,
RUSSIAN, ETC). THIS BODY BROKE WITH THE MAIN BODY OF THE
CHURCH (AT THAT TIME LOCATED IN ROME AND CONSTANTINOPLE) IN
THE FIFTH CENTURY, APPROXIMATELY 30 YEARS AFTER THE ASSYRIAN
CHURCH'S BREAK. THIS ORIENTAL ORTHODOX COMMUNITY IS COMPOSED
OF THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH, THE COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
(EGYPT), THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH, THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH, THE MALANKARA ORTHODOX SYRIAN CHURCH (INDIA), AND THE
ERITREAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. THE VATICAN'S DIALOG WITH THIS
COMMUNITY IS NOT AS FAR ALONG AS WITH THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH,

CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL PTQ8925

PAGE 01 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061421Z
ACTION EUR-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AMAD-00 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 DS-00
FBIE-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 VCE-00 NEA-00
NSAE-00 SSO-00 SS-00 EPAE-00 SNIS-00 NISC-00 DSCC-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 /000W
------------------704D59 061421Z /38
O 061335Z MAR 02
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY ROME
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 02 VATICAN 001171

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/WE (D.MENUTTI)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2012
TAGS: EG IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY IS IT JO LE PREL SA SY VT VTEG VTEG VTEG
SUBJECT: THE VATICAN'S ""OTHER"" INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BUT MUCH FURTHER ALONG THAN WITH THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. THAT
SAID, THE VATICAN HAS TO TREAD CAREFULLY IN THIS AREA. AFTER
SEVERAL JOINT DECLARATIONS WITH THE ARMENIAN CHURCH, COPTIC
POPE SHENOUDA III OF EGYPT DECLARED THAT DIALOG WITH THE
VATICAN MUST BE DONE ON A FULL COMMUNITY BASIS, AND NOT BY
INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL MEMBERS. THUS, THE VATICAN NOW HAS TO BE
MORE SENSITIVE TO THE DESIRES OF THE EGYPTIAN COPTIC
COMMUNITY AND THE SYRIAN ORTODOX CHURCH IF IT WANTS PROGRESS
IN THE OVERALL DIALOG.

CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061421Z
4.(C) WHAT ARE THE VATICAN'S INTERESTS AND WHAT SHOULD THE
U.S. EXPECT

-- LEBANON: THE VATICAN WANTS TO MAINTAIN A STRONG CHRISTIAN
PRESENCE IN A UNIFIED, INDEPENDENT LEBANON. IT WILL
CONTINUE TO PUSH FOR THE REMOVAL OF ALL FOREIGN TROOPS (I.E.
SYRIAN) AND REINTEGRATION OF THE SOUTH INTO THE COUNTRY. WE
SHOULD EXPECT THE VATICAN TO CONTINUE TO ASK THE UNITED
STATES TO HAVE STRONGER, BETTER CONTACTS WITH MARONITE
PATRIARCH SAFIR. WE SHOULD ALSO EXPECT THE VATICAN TO
EXPRESS CONCERN OVER WHAT THEY SEE AS RETALIATION AGAINST THE
CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN LEBANON WHO HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF
COLLABORATING WITH THE ISRAELIS.



IRAQ: IRAQ WILL REMAIN A BONE OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE
UNITED STATES AND VATICAN. WE SHOULD EXPECT THE VATICAN TO
STRONGLY CONDEMN THE CONTINUED EMBARGO AS ""HARMFUL"" TO THE
IRAQI POPULATION. IN ITS EYES, THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO
SADDAM HUSSEIN EXCEPT AN ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST REGIME. THUS
FOR REASONS OF PROTECTING THE CATHOLICS IN IRAQ, AS WELL AS
CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE
ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST, THE VATICAN WILL BE AMONG THE
LEAST VOCAL INTERNATIONAL CRITICS OF THE CURRENT REGIME. WE
SHOULD EXPECT VOCAL, PUBLIC CRITICISM OF ANY MILITARY ACTION
AGAINST IRAQ.

SYRIA: BECAUSE DAMASCUS IS THE SEAT OF THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH, AND ON ACCOUNT OF THE PRESENCE OF A LARGE CATHOLIC
COMMUNITY, THE VATICAN IS CONTINUE TO SEEK CORRECT, GOOD
RELATIONS WITH SYRIA. AS IT DOES NOT FEAR A FUNDAMENTALIST
TAKE OVER, IT CAN BE EXPECTED TO BE LESS SENSITIVE TO
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 VATICA 01171 02 OF 02 061421Z
CRITICISM OF SYRIAN POLICY THAN TO IRAQI POLICY. THAT SAID,
VATICAN FRUSTRATION OVER THE OVERT ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS OF
PRESIDENT ASSAD DURING THE POPE'S APRIL, 2001 VISIT TO SYRIA
HAVE SUBSIDED. IN FACT, THE POPE RECENTLY SUSPENDED HIS
LENTEN RETREAT (WHICH IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL) TO MEET ASSAD DURING
THE SYRIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO ROME;

IRAN: THE NUMBER OF CATHOLICS IS MINUSCULE (12,000 BY
VATICAN ESTIMATES). HOWEVER, THE VATICAN SEES IRAN AS A
PARTNER IN CATHOLIC/ISLAMIC DIALOG. IT WILL THEREFORE STRIVE
TO HAVE PROPER RELATIONS WITH THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN;

SAUDI ARABIA: THERE ARE OVER 1 MILLION FOREIGN CATHOLICS IN
SAUDI ARABIA. THE VATICAN WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE THEIR RIGHT
TO PRACTICE CATHOLICISM AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE. WE SHOULD
EXPECT THIS TO BE RAISED AT ANY MEETING BETWEEN A HIGH-LEVEL
U.S. GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL AND FOREIGN MINISTER TAURAN OR PRIME
MINISTER SODANO. NICHOLSON

POPE

CONFIDENTIAL

>

2002VATICA01171 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

"

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