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Cablegate: Amidst Controversy, Archbishop of Canterbury Meets Pope

VZCZCXRO3019
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHSL
DE RUEHROV #0122/01 3341719
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 301719Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1194
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 0004
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0036
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0097
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0080
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1233

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000122

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2034
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KIRF SOCI UK VT
SUBJECT: AMIDST CONTROVERSY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY MEETS POPE

REF: VATICAN 113

VATICAN 00000122 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael Foley, Pol Chief.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (S) Summary: During his recent visit to Rome and meeting
with the Pope --planned before the Pope urged disaffected
Anglicans to convert to Catholicism-- Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams challenged the position of the Catholic Church on
ordination of women and made it clear that the Vatican should
have consulted with him before reaching out to the Anglican
community. Although Williams' visit to Rome was cast as
positive and reinforcing of ecumenical dialogue, it's clear the
wounds from this controversy will affect that dialogue
negatively (at least for now) and are likely to cast a pall over
the Pope's planned state visit to England in 2010. End summary

Official and Public Statements Focus on Positive

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

2. (SBU) The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met with
Pope Benedict XVI on November 21. The meeting was planned
before the Vatican released its new apostolic constitution that
facilitates the conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism.
Described as "cordial" by Vatican officials in an official
statement, the Holy See said "The discussions also focused on
recent events affecting relations between the Catholic Church
and the Anglican Communion, reiterating the shared will to
continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between
Catholics and Anglicans." Notwithstanding this upbeat Vatican
characterization of the meeting, Williams used it to draw clear
lines between Anglican and Catholic core beliefs. He presented
the Pope with a copy of a lecture he delivered in Rome on
November 19, in which he challenged the Vatican's position on
the ordination of women, the authority of the papacy, and the
role and relation of local churches to a centralized governing
structure.

3. (U) Speaking with Vatican Radio shortly after the meeting,
Williams stressed his prior good relations with the Pope and
downplayed the importance of the Vatican's new procedure for
receiving Anglicans into the Catholic Church. However, he did
express misgivings about how the new procedure was announced.
In order to prevent negative fall-out during the Pope's planned
2010 state visit to England, Williams recommended in the
interview that the Pope tread carefully while in England when
discussing the late Cardinal Henry Newman (1801-1890). (Note:
Newman, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, may be
recognized as a "blessed" model for Catholics -- beatified --
during the Pope's visit.) Williams said he had asked the Pope
to speak about Newman as a great British intellectual, and not
just as a convert.

~But Private Discussions Reveal a Deeper Rift

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

4. (S) Archbishop Williams was the guest of honor at a dinner
on Nov. 20 hosted by the British Ambassador to the Holy See,
Francis Campbell, for senior Vatican officials. Campbell told
the Ambassador that the tone of the conversation was respectful
but at times awkward. Campbell (protect) believes the Vatican's
move shifted the goal of the Catholic-Anglican ecumenical
dialogue from true unity to mere cooperation. He further noted
that some Vatican officials themselves believe that Williams
should have been consulted --instead of simply told-- about the
apostolic constitution. (Comment: Campbell was probably
referring to Cardinal Kasper, who runs the Council for Christian
Unity. End Comment)

5. (S) In a subsequent conversation with DCM after Williams'
departure, Campbell (strictly protect) said Anglican-Vatican
relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a
result of the Pope's decision. The Vatican decision seems to
have been aimed primarily at Anglicans in the U.S. and
Australia, with little thought given to how it would affect the
center of Anglicanism, England, or the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Benedict XVI, Campbell said, had put Williams in an impossible
situation. If Williams reacted more forcefully, he would
destroy decades of work on ecumenical dialogue; by not reacting

VATICAN 00000122 002.2 OF 002


more harshly, he has lost support among angry Anglicans. The
crisis is also worrisome for England's small, mostly
Irish-origin, Catholic minority, Campbell said. There is still
latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not
take much to set it off. The outcome could be discrimination or
in isolated cases, even violence, against this minority. As for
the Pope's visit next year to England, Campbell said he now
expected a chilly reception, especially from the Royal family -
which was not a great supporter of ecumenical dialogue even
before the crisis.

Comment

-------

6. (S) Williams' previously planned meeting with the Pope
unquestionably came at an awkward time, but was also important
that it happen in order to start healing the damage caused by
the Vatican's outreach to Anglicans. The visit also gave
Williams an opportunity to recover some lost stature by
challenging the Catholic Church during his visit. As reported
previously (reftel), the Vatican decision to go after
disaffected Anglicans undercut Cardinal Kasper, and it now seems
the decision may cast a pall on the Pope's visit to England next
year. In the end, some may wonder whether the damage to
inter-Christian relations was worth it - especially since the
number of disaffected Anglicans that will convert is likely to
be a trickle rather than a wave. End comment.
DIAZ

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