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Cablegate: Vatican Sees No Campaign Against Nicaraguan Church

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 VATICAN 002712

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR EUR/WE LEVIN; WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2014
TAGS: NU PHUM PREL SOCI VT
SUBJECT: VATICAN SEES NO CAMPAIGN AGAINST NICARAGUAN CHURCH

REF: A. MANAGUA 1829
B. MANAGUA 1910

Classified By: CDA Peter G. Martin; Reasons 1.5 (b and d)

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) Vatican Country Director for Nicaragua Lucio Sembrano
said July 8 that he did not regard current Church-State
tensions (reftels) as a result of any government campaign
against the Church. While not entirely excusing government
offenses against Catholic hierarchy, Sembrano (protect
throughout) acknowledged that actions by Cardinal Obando and
others had increased tensions with the government. He said
President Bolanos was "doing his best" in a difficult
situation. Though Sembrano sees little chance of influencing
Obando and like-minded prelates on this issue, he said that
the Holy See would not be disappointed when the Cardinal is
out of the spotlight. End Summary.

-----------------------------------------
No Government Campaign against the Church
-----------------------------------------

2. (C) Vatican Country Director for Nicaragua Lucio Sembrano
(protect throughout) told us July 8 that the Holy See did not
regard current Church-State tensions in Nicaragua (reftels)
as a result of any campaign against the Church by the GON.
While not entirely excusing government offenses against the
Church, Sembrano said the Bolanos government had been "very
patient" in handling the "noisy" opposition coming from
certain parties within the church, specifically Cardinal
Miguel Obando y Bravo. Bolanos "is doing his best" in a
difficult situation, Sembrano said.

-----------------------------
Hierarchy not Helping Matters
-----------------------------

3. (C) Sembrano made it clear he thought Cardinal Obando was
not helping matters. Though he did not seem aware that
Obando had agreed to celebrate the July 19 anniversary Mass
(ref b), Sembrano suggested that Obando "naively" believed
that Daniel Ortega had "reformed himself." Obando "doesn't
realize the ramifications of some of his actions," Sembrano
concluded.

----------------
Vatican Pressure
----------------

4. (C) Sembrano led us to believe that Vatican pressure on
Obando and other churchmen to temper provocative actions in
relation to the government was ineffective. On the other
hand, Sembrano told us, the Vatican would not be disappointed
when Obando, who is already beyond the standard episcopal
retirement age of 75, left the spotlight. Though Sembrano
did not name any leading candidates waiting in the wings to
replace Obando, he noted that Catholic Prelature Opus Dei
might be in a position to influence the eventual choice, as
it is strong in Nicaragua.

---------------------------------
Papal Nuncio Active, but Unheeded
---------------------------------

5. (C) As far as other Vatican opportunities to influence
the situation, Sembrano said that current Papal Nuncio
Jean-Paul Gobel was "active," but predicted that he would
inevitably find himself on the wrong side of the Nicaraguan
bishops -- if he wasn't already there. Most attempts to
influence the bishops tended to alienate them, he said, as
they were strong willed and resented interference, even from
Rome. He said the previous nuncio had experienced the same
problems.

--------------
1861 Concordat

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

6. (C) When asked about the GON's renewed interest in the
1861 Concordat (ref b), Sembrano noted that government
officials had approached Gobel and asked for a copy of the
document. They also asked for a list of all the previous
nuncios who had served in Managua, as apparently the archives
containing this information had been destroyed. Sembrano
said the Holy See was not concerned about the Concordat
affair; there was talk of updating the document, but the
Vatican would of course do nothing without consulting the
Bishops' Conference.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (C) Sembrano, who always speaks frankly with us,
displayed a sympathy for the Nicaraguan government that was
striking given current tensions. This, however, does not
mean the Vatican can or will influence the situation. The
Holy See is typically less willing to meddle in political
issues than it is in theological matters. Even when it does
wade into politics, its leverage on bishops is weaker when it
comes to political affairs than it is with issues of "faith
and morals."

8. (C) Further, though Sembrano implied that the Vatican
would be content to see the 78-year-old Obando retire, in
fact, the matter lies entirely in the Pope's hands. A bishop
must offer his resignation to the Pope when he turns 75.
Though the Pope asks some prelates to continue to serve
beyond age 75, he can at any later date move to accept their
resignation. Having initially declined Obando's resignation
three years ago, the Vatican may now be simply waiting for a
lull in the political action to ease him discretely into
retirement. However, the Holy See could be so hesitant to
risk action in this environment that it will now allow Obando
effectively to decide on his own when he wants to hang up his
mitre.

MARTIN

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