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Cablegate: Vatican Two-Step with Cuba: Criticize Embargo, Ask Goc For

VZCZCXRO0678
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHROV #0117 3211732
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171732Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1188
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1227

UNCLAS VATICAN 000117

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ETTC PREL KIRF CU VT
SUBJECT: VATICAN TWO-STEP WITH CUBA: CRITICIZE EMBARGO, ASK GOC FOR
CONCESSIONS

REF: VATICAN 109

1. (SBU) Summary: Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli requested
greater mass communication freedom for the Catholic Church in
Cuba during his visit to the island November 6 to 8. On his
return to Rome, he criticized U.S. economic sanctions against
Cuba. The Vatican's approach to Havana remains to press for
progressive change in Cuba while restating its well-known
opposition to economic sanctions. End Summary.

2. (U) Archbishop Celli is the President of the Vatican's
Council for Social Communications, and was in Cuba at the
invitation of the Cuban Conference of Bishops (reftel). In an
interview with the Spanish news agency EFE on November 5, Celli
expressed his wish that the Catholic Church in Cuba would have
"normal and frequent access" to mass media, which are controlled
by the state. In a separate interview with Vatican Radio on
November 13 (after his return to Rome), Celli said he had asked
Cuban authorities to give normal access to the airwaves to the
Church. While noting that the economic cost of mass
communication is an issue, Celli said government restrictions
were the biggest obstacle to the Church's communication efforts.
"They said they would think about it", Celli added.

3. (U) In the same Vatican Radio interview, Celli also
criticized U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba. He called for
the Obama administration to lift restrictions, because
"undeniably, it is the population that suffers the most."

4. (SBU) Comment: The Vatican is not naove, and knows little
has changed in Cuba since Raul assumed power. However, it takes
a long view and would much rather continue to press for small
incremental concessions than openly criticize Havana and risk
the relative freedom of worship that Cuban Catholics now enjoy.
The GOC has made small concessions to the Church over time.
Taken together, they allow - in the Vatican's view - new
avenues for the Catholic Church's pastoral mission. In order
not to risk this incremental progress, the Vatican likely will
shy away from international partnerships to press openly for
political change in Cuba. At the same time, the Church will
also continue to restate its opposition to economic sanctions
to prove its independence to Cuban authorities. End comment.

DIAZ

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