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Cablegate: Cuba Stepping Up Pressure On Catholic Church

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

UNCLAS VATICAN 004429

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (MENNUTI); WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM CU VT
SUBJECT: CUBA STEPPING UP PRESSURE ON CATHOLIC CHURCH

REF: VATICAN 1775

1. (SBU) "FIDEL CASTRO SEES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AS AN
ENEMY," HAVANA'S CARDINAL JAIME ORTEGA ASSERTED IN
DESCRIBING CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS ON THE COMMUNIST ISLAND
DURING A RECENT VISIT TO ITALY. INTERVIEWED BY ITALIAN
BISHOPS' DAILY "AVVENIRE," THE CARDINAL SUMMARIZED THE
CHURCH'S SITUATION IN CUBA AS BEING "UNDER SIEGE." HE
SPOKE OF A "SUBTLE BATTLE AGAINST THE CHURCH, WHICH IS SEEN
AS A PRIVATE ENTITY TO BE MARGINALIZED SO AS NOT TO ROB THE
REVOLUTION OF ITS STRENGTH AND ENERGY." THE CARDINAL'S
COMMENTS ARE IN LINE WITH RECENT COMMENTS WE HAVE HEARD
FROM THE SECRETARIAT OF STATE, WHICH HAS SHOWN INCREASING
IRRITATION WITH THE REPRESSIVE ACTIONS OF THE CUBAN
GOVERNMENT. SPEAKING ABOUT CUBA IN A RECENT MEETING, THE
DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER SHOOK HIS HEAD AND SAID: "ENOUGH IS
ENOUGH."

2. (U) CARDINAL ORTEGA, IN ITALY FOR A "SISTER CITY"
EVENT, SAID THAT ALTHOUGH POPE JOHN PAUL II'S 1998 VISIT TO
CUBA HAD GENERATED A POSITIVE SPIN-OFF FOR THE CHURCH, THIS
WAS LIMITED TO THE SOCIAL LEVEL. FOR EXAMPLE, THE VISIT
HAD HELPED FACILITATE THE WORK OF CATHOLIC RELIEF AGENCY
CARITAS, AND THE CHURCH'S CARE FOR THE SICK AND POOR.

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3. (U) ORTEGA SPOKE OF A WIDESPREAD DESIRE AMONG CUBANS TO
EMIGRATE, ESPECIALLY AMONG THE YOUNG. WHEN ASKED IF
DIALOGUE WITH THE CASTRO REGIME WAS POSSIBLE, THE CARDINAL
QUOTED FROM ONE OF THE POPE'S SPEECHES IN HAVANA - "ONLY
DIALOGUE WILL RESOLVE DIFFICULTIES". ORTEGA INDICATED THAT
HE WOULD PURSUE THIS STRATEGY "EVEN IF PROBLEMATIC".

4. (U) "AVVENIRE" REPORTED ON THE SAME PAGE A RECENT CUBAN
BISHOPS' DOCUMENT THAT LAMENTS THE REGIME'S IDEOLOGICAL
RETURN TO THE EARLY DAYS OF THE REVOLUTION WITH ITS
CONCURRENT OPPRESSIVE ANTI-CATHOLICISM. OF GREATEST
CONCERN TO THE PRELATES HOWEVER WAS THE SENSE OF
HOPELESSNESS AMONG ORDINARY CUBANS, ALONG WITH THE DAILY
STRUGGLE TO MAKE ENDS MEET AND A RESULTING DESIRE TO
EMIGRATE.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: CARDINAL ORTEGA'S REMARKS REFLECT THE
CONTINUING DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE CUBAN CHURCH OVER THE LACK
OF MOVEMENT SINCE POPE JOHN PAUL II'S "HOPE FILLED" 1998
VISIT. ORTEGA IS A REALIST -- THUS HIS CONTINUING
PREFERENCE FOR DIALOGUE TO MAKE THE BEST OF THE IDEOLOGICAL
CHASM BETWEEN COMMUNISM AND CATHOLICISM. WHILE THE HOLY
SEE ITSELF OFFICIALLY PROMOTES A SIMILAR COURSE OF
ENGAGEMENT, THE POPE'S FORCEFUL CONDEMNATION OF CASTRO'S
APRIL EXECUTIONS AND DETENTIONS, AND HIS PROMOTION OF
DEMOCRACY FOR THE ISLAND (REFTEL) INDICATE THE VATICAN'S
OWN DEEPENING FRUSTRATION WITH THE CUBAN REGIME AND ITS
RECENT ACTIONS. FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE, THE VATICAN IS
LIKELY TO CONTINUE TO AUGMENT THE CHURCH'S SOCIAL PRESENCE
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE WHILE ALSO PROTESTING
DETENTIONS DIRECTLY WITH THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT AND SPEAKING
OUT AS OPPORTUNITIES PRESENT THEMSELVES TO HIGHLIGHT THEIR
OPPOSITION TO CUBAN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES.

NICHOLSON

NNNN

2003VATICA04429 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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