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Cablegate: Vatican: Uk Taps Northern Irish Catholic As Ambassador

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 000529

SIPDIS


EUR/WE (JLARREA); EUR/WE/UBI (NOLAN);DRL/IRF (KELLY)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/8/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV VT UK
SUBJECT: VATICAN: UK TAPS NORTHERN IRISH CATHOLIC AS AMBASSADOR

REF: VATICAN 507

CLASSIFIED BY: Peter Martin, Pol/Econ Chief, Vatican, State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

-----------
Summary
-----------

1. (C) The UK has selected Francis Campbell, a 35-year-old
Catholic from Northern Ireland, as ambassador to the Holy See.
We understand that Campbell will become the first Catholic to
represent the UK at the Vatican since the Reformation. Campbell
is a former diplomat and advisor at 10 Downing St. who has close
ties to PM Blair. After leaving government service, he worked
for Amnesty International, leaving due to philosophical
differences. He is said to be open to -- but not uncritical of
-- the U.S. Campbell's appointment occurs during an awkward
period in UK - Holy See relations, during which the UK irked
Vatican officials by co-locating its embassy to the Holy See
with its representation to Italy, and by placing what critics
called a "help wanted ad" for a new ambassador in the media
(reftel). Vatican UK Country Director Monsignor Bernie Auza
(protect) was pleased by the appointment and called Campbell
"well prepared" for the job. He thinks that the appointment is
actually an "about-face" from the UK's previous desire to
deemphasize its representation here. Though his age may invite
some questions, Campbell has the potential to reinvigorate
UK-Holy See relations. The appointment of a well-connected,
energetic Catholic by a government known for its historic
animosity to Catholicism over the past several centuries figures
to be well received here. End Summary.

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----------------------------------------
Catholic Selected as Ambassador
----------------------------------------

2. (C) Vatican-based contacts have told us that the UK has
selected Francis Campbell, a 35-year-old Catholic from Northern
Ireland, to be the next British ambassador to the Holy See. The
appointment is due to be announced Friday November 11. We
understand that Campbell would become the first Catholic to
represent the UK at the Vatican since the Reformation.

----------------
Solid Resume
----------------

3. (C) We defer to Embassy London for definitive background
on Campbell, but contacts told us he has a solid resume, despite
his youth. He served in the Foreign Office in New York at the
UN, at the UK Embassy to Italy, and also at 10 Downing St. as a
foreign policy advisor to PM Blair. In fact, he is said to be
very close to the PM, and traveled recently to the U.S. with
Mrs. Blair. Following his government service, Campbell worked
for Amnesty International. Though according to one source, he
is a "left-leaning" Catholic, he reportedly tired of some of
Amnesty's rhetoric, and left his post some months ago. Our
contact said that Amnesty's gradual move towards support of
abortion rights (it had traditionally remained neutral on the
issue) may have influenced Campbell's move. He is said to be
open to -- but not uncritical of -- the U.S.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Awkward Period for UK - Vatican Relations
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (C) Campbell's appointment occurs during an awkward period
in UK - Holy See relations, during which Vatican officials were
miffed by the British decision to co-locate its embassy to the
Holy See with its representation to Italy. Then the UK raised
eyebrows and became the butt of jokes around the Vatican by
placing what critics called a "help wanted ad" for a new
ambassador in the media (reftel). As it turned out, the search
turned up some 146 candidates, according to a Vatican-based
source. One candidate was a British citizen already living in
Rome, apparently attractive to the parsimonious UK in part
because she would have been able to use her current house as the
official residence. Our source said the group was winnowed to
eight - four diplomats and four non-diplomats including a
"Jewish banker," two current ambassadors, and a Catholic
financial analyst. In addition to being close to the Blairs,
Campbell reportedly had the support of some high-profile British
Catholics. Some ability in French and Italian was also helpful.

---------------------------------------------
Vatican: Campbell is "Well Prepared"
---------------------------------------------

5. (C) Monsignor Bernie Auza (protect), the Holy See's Country
Director for the UK, knows Campbell and called him "well

prepared" for the job. He thinks that the appointment is
actually an "about-face" from the UK's previous desire to
deemphasize its representation here. Auza told us he thought
that PM Blair only got wind of the plight of the UK mission when
the controversy bubbled over, and then sought to rectify the
situation. "He wanted someone who knew the Vatican and the
issues here," Auza said. Campbell, in fact, had accompanied
Blair in his celebrated 2003 visit to Pope John Paul II at which
he was rumored to have received communion from the pope - an act
with significant religious and social ramifications for a
non-Catholic such as the British PM.

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

6. (C) Though his age may invite some questions, Campbell has
the potential to reinvigorate UK-Holy See relations. Auza
seemed pleased by the news and noted that an ambassador with
close ties to Blair could be helpful. He went so far as to say
that Campbell's age could be a plus, as an energetic diplomat in
the thick of his career would want to make things happen and not
simply become a fixture on the cocktail circuit. The
appointment of a Catholic by a government known for its historic
animosity to Catholicism over the past several centuries also
figures to be well received here; it is bound to make a stir
when it is broken in the press.

ROONEY


SANDROLINI


NNNN

2005VATICA00529 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

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