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Cablegate: Vatican On Haiti: Church Losses and Responses

VZCZCXRO3140
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHSL
DE RUEHROV #0011/01 0201644
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 201644Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1239
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE IMMEDIATE 0010
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA IMMEDIATE 0011
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZH/HAITI COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0032
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0042
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0126
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0090
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1278

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000011

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/20/2035
TAGS: EAID PREL SOCI PHUM KIRF VT HA
SUBJECT: VATICAN ON HAITI: CHURCH LOSSES AND RESPONSES

REF: A. A) STATE 4807
B. B) STATE 4854
C. C) VATICAN 10
D. D) KELLY-NOYES EMAILS 1/16-19/10
E. E) STATE 5277

VATICAN 00000011 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Julieta Valls Noyes, DCM, EXEC, State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S) Summary: While devastating, the Church suffered fewer
losses in the Haiti earthquake than initially reported in the
media. The death of the Archbishop and many seminarians were
especially painful but the Vatican is already reviewing how to
regroup: Bishop Pierre Dumas, President of Caritas Haiti, could
become the new Archbishop. Meanwhile, the Nuncio in PAP is
working with Haitian bishops, and with international missionary
and other Catholic organizations, to provide humanitarian aid
and pastoral care to the victims (see also ref c). Catholic aid
organizations have already pledged over $50 million in aid and
raised over $13 million in donations; these numbers will
increase. On a related note, the Vatican is concerned about
future operating funds for the Haitian embassy accredited to the
Holy See. On the political front, the Vatican believes the
return of deposed Haitian leader (and former priest) Aristide
would be disastrous and is trying to get a quiet message to him
and/or his confidantes to this effect. Holy See officials have
repeatedly thanked Embassy Vatican for USG response to the
earthquake and for coordination with the Church on relief
efforts. End summary.

(SBU) Church Suffers Tragic but not Incapacitating Losses
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (U) According to FIDES, the media arm of the Holy See's
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (which oversees
the Church's work in Haiti), while Catholic congregations and
organizations in Haiti suffered deeply tragic losses during the
earthquake, these were not as overwhelming as initial media
reports indicated. Specifically, the known losses to date
include:

-- Archbishop Serge Miot
-- Monfort Missionaries: 11 dead; infrastructure damaged
-- Salesians: 3 dead priests plus 500 students or seminarians
killed; infrastructure destroyed or damaged
-- Daughters of Wisdom: 3 dead, 3 missing and presumed dead
-- Spiritan Fathers: 1 dead
-- Oblates: 1 dead; damage to buildings and centers
-- Holy Cross Fathers: 1 dead
-- Dominicans: no deaths, 1 nun injured
-- Franciscans: no known deaths or injuries; convent and schools
destroyed

However, the Council of Latin American Bishops Conferences
reports over 100 members of religious orders still missing and
presumed dead. The good news is that the Christian Brothers and
Camillan order had no losses, and the Jesuits also lost no-one
and suffered no damage to their buildings. (Note: For context,
the Vatican has informed the Embassy that before the earthquake,
the Haitian Church had eighteen bishops in ten dioceses, 486
diocesan priests, 306 religious orders priests, 332 non-priest
male religious (monks and friars), 1,851 female religious
(nuns), and 421 seminarians.)

3. (SBU) The Vatican's Secretariat of State official in charge
of Central America, Monsignor Francisco Frojan, told polchief on
January 19 that the death of the Archbishop of PAP had been a
hard blow to the Church. Embassy understands that Bishop
Pierre Dumas, President of Caritas Haiti, could become the new
Archbishop.

4. (C) The earthquake also killed the sister of the Cardinal
Archbishop of Sao Paolo: she was in PAP giving a conference when
the earthquake hit. (Some seminarians and other religious
personnel at that event were also killed.) At the same time,
Frojan added that the Vatican was fortunate the Nunciature had
not been damaged, and thus has become a shelter and meeting
point for bishops, clergy and missionaries. No Vatican official
other than the Nuncio himself were in PAP at the time of the
earthquake.

(U) Vatican Is Responding to Crisis
-----------------------------------

5. (U) Polchief delivered refs A and B points to Frojan on
January 19 and offered USG support should the Vatican require
assistance in getting humanitarian supplies to Haiti. While the
Vatican does not own any planes, Frojan had received questions
about flights to Haiti from organizations wishing to assist, and
thanked polchief for the information. Frojan said Cor Unum --
the Vatican's umbrella organization for humanitarian work -- and
Caritas Internationalis have the lead on relief efforts (ref C),
and are coordinating donations from a wide range of Catholic
charities. For example, U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services (a
Caritas organization) has already pledged $25 million and raised
over $13 million in donations for Haiti, and Caritas
Internationalis is contributing an additional $25 million.
These numbers will go up.

6. (SBU) Beyond the influx of new aid, Frojan noted that before
the earthquake the Catholic Church throughout Haiti had managed
26 hospitals, 213 health dispensaries, 4 leprosy health centers,
23 homes for the elderly and the chronically ill and 39
orphanages. Many of these institutions are still functional in
the affected areas and are providing assistance. The Camillan
priests and nuns, for example, ran a hospital in PAP that was
undamaged and they are now treating the injured. Operating
information on other institutions is trickling in to the
Vatican, but it is still incomplete. (Note: According to the
Vatican, there are about 7 million Catholics in Haiti - 70% of
the population. Another 23% of the population adheres to other
Christian denominations. End Note)

7. (C) The Vatican's Chief of Protocol, Msgr. Fortunatus
Nwachuku, raised another concern with Ambassador Diaz regarding
Haiti. The Haitian Embassy to the Holy See, probably like those
elsewhere, has a very tight budget and cannot sustain operations
for long without renewed funding from Port au Prince. Moreover,
the Haitian Ambassador has confided to his Canadian colleague
here that the embassy can get by for a little longer, but the
embassy's situation is unsustainable for long. Nwachuku asked
whether any aid programs currently included funding for Haitian
embassies.

(S) Aristide's Return Would be Disastrous
-----------------------------------------

8. (S) In discussions with DCM over the past few days (ref d),
senior Vatican officials said they were dismayed about media
reports that deposed Haitian leader -- and former priest -- Jean
Bertrand Aristide wished to return to Haiti. (Aristide now
lives in South Africa.) The Vatican's Assesor (deputy chief of
staff equivalent), Msgr. Peter Wells, said Aristide's presence
would distract from the relief efforts and could become
destabilizing. Following a conversation with DCM, the
Undersecretary for Relations with States (deputy foreign
minister equivalent), Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, conferred with
the Vatican nuncio in Haiti. Archbishop Auza agreed
emphatically that Aristide's return would be a disaster. He
said he would ask local bishops if any of them still had
positive enough relations with Aristide to persuade him to stay
away. Balestrero then conveyed Auza's views to Archbishop
Greene in South Africa, and asked him also to look for ways to
get this message convincingly to Aristide. DCM suggested that
Greene also convey this message to the SAG. Embassy will report
the results of this Vatican outreach once they are available.

(U) Comment: The Church is On the Case
--------------------------------------

9. (C) Normally contemplative and deliberately slow to act in
political crises, the Vatican and Church-related organizations
are responsive and effective when dealing with humanitarian
disasters. Its global network of aid organizations and local
Church entities provide a well-organized and reasonably
well-funded structure to deliver assistance. Moreover, despite
concerns elsewhere (ref e), the Vatican is very appreciative of
USG aid to Haiti. Holy See officials have thanked Embassy
Vatican officials repeatedly this week for USG assistance to
Haiti and for the Embassy's close coordination with the Holy See
and Church organizations on relief efforts. They say on-the
ground liaison with Caritas and with the nuncio would also be
useful. Embassy Vatican will continue outreach at all levels to
continue to get out the message about USG efforts.

10. (C) PORT-AU-PRINCE MINIMIZE CONSIDERED.
DIAZ

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