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Viewing cable 06VATICAN141, POPE AVOIDS CONFRONTATION IN SPAIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06VATICAN141 2006-07-19 16:04 2010-12-10 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
VZCZCXRO4777
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHSR
DE RUEHROV #0141/01 2001611
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191611Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0408
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0436
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000141

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/WE LARREA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/19/2016
TAGS: PHUM SOCI KIRF SP VT
SUBJECT: POPE AVOIDS CONFRONTATION IN SPAIN

REF: VATICAN 128

VATICAN 00000141 001.2 OF 002


CLASSIFIED BY: Peter Martin, CDA, Vatican, State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)



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Summary

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1. (C) Pope Benedict XVI promoted traditional Catholic
doctrine on the family and bioethics during his recent visit to
Spain, but opted for respectful dialogue over open attacks
against the Spanish government's policies on gay marriage,
divorce and abortion. The pope aimed to pitch his message to
the entire Western world and not just the Spanish.
Vatican-based media and others commented on Spanish PM
Zapatero's "snub" of a papal mass, but the Holy See took no
offense at his absence. Holy See officials told us that from
their perspective the visit was a success, even if challenges
remain in Vatican - Spain relations. End Summary.

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

Calls to Strengthen Family and Morals

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

2. (SBU) Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Spain in early July
for the Vatican's World Meeting of Families, setting the stage
for potential conflict between the Holy See and a Spanish
government that has irritated the Vatican with its positions on
some "life and family issues" (reftel). In the event, Benedict
did not shy away from comments on same-sex marriage, abortion,
and genetic research, but the comments were not so much
finger-wagging at the Spanish government, as a message aimed at
the Western world in general. Benedict has prioritized a battle
against what he sees as the Western world's embrace of
relativism and radical secularism, charging that the West has
forgotten the social adhesion provided by traditional
Christian/moral values.

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

New Compendium

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

3. (SBU) The pope's visit coincided with the release of a new
compendium of Catholic doctrine on the family. Issued by the
Pontifical Council for the Family (this year celebrating its
25th anniversary), the document encourages traditional family
life centered on a married heterosexual couple and their
children, and condemns same-sex marriage, divorce, abortion and
artificial contraception.

4. (SBU) More aggressive proponents of the lines reinforced by
the document include Council for the Family President Cardinal
Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who recently sounded off against
embryonic stem-cell research, threatening excommunication for
the researchers, health professionals and women involved.
American Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Vatican's
theological body, has urged lawmakers to stand firm on issues
such as same-sex marriage and the liberalization of legislation
on abortion and divorce.

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

Pope Tries to Persuade - Not Confront

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

5. (C) In this context, the pope's tack in Spain was milder
than some expected. While making his points on the relevant
"family" issues clear, Benedict himself was keen to accent the
positive during the conference. When asked by reporters about
the legalization of gay marriage in Spain, the pontiff said he
preferred to encourage heterosexual families, while at the same
time offering help and respect to homosexuals. Monsignor Paolo
Gualtieri (protect throughout), Vatican MFA Country Director for
Spain, told us Benedict wanted to avoid direct criticism of the
Spanish government. In addition, he addressed, but did not
emphasize the hot-button family issues in his private meeting
with Spanish PM Zapatero. The pope asked for greater
cooperation on those issues (and the teaching of religion in
schools), Gualtieri said, but put more emphasis on issues such
as immigration, international conflicts and Africa.

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

VATICAN 00000141 002.2 OF 002



Is Spain Worth a Mass?

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

6. (C) Vatican-based media and others reported "controversy"
over PM Zapatero's decision not to attend the conference's
concluding mass celebrated by the pope. Gualtieri told us that
the pope was not miffed by Zapatero's absence. If anything,
Gualtieri said, Zapatero stayed home to "save the Holy Father
potential embarrassment" due to protests or other controversy
that may well have occurred had he attended the mass. The
conference as a whole had the fingerprints of conservative
Catholic group Opus Dei and several right-leaning Spanish
politicians - few of whom, our contacts emphasized to us, could
be counted among Zapatero's greatest admirers.

7. (C) Media contacts told us privately that outgoing Vatican
press office chief Joaquin Navarro-Valls (septel) purposely
played up the "snub" angle. Vatican officials confirmed that
Navarro-Valls was on his own on this one, and hinted that as a
Spaniard and Opus Dei member himself, he had become too
personally involved in the story. Gualtieri noted that the
government was in fact represented by two cabinet ministers.
"There really was no problem [regarding the mass]," he concluded.

-------

Comment

-------

8. (SBU) Continuing to surprise those who expected him to be a
heavy-handed enforcer in the papacy, Benedict has used tact and
persuasion rather than fire and brimstone in his battle against
relativism and secularism. This may not be a fight that the
pope can win in Spain or the rest of Western Europe, but his
current approach may have greater long-term impact than the
alternative.
MARTIN