Viewing cable 04VATICAN2712

04VATICAN27122004-07-13 04:40:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
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 002712 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2014 
     ¶B. MANAGUA 1910 
Classified By: CDA Peter G. Martin; Reasons 1.5 (b and d) 
¶1.  (C) Vatican Country Director for Nicaragua Lucio Sembrano 
said July 8 that he did not regard current Church-State 
tensions (reftels) as a result of any government campaign 
against the Church.  While not entirely excusing government 
offenses against Catholic hierarchy, Sembrano (protect 
throughout) acknowledged that actions by Cardinal Obando and 
others had increased tensions with the government.  He said 
President Bolanos was "doing his best" in a difficult 
situation.  Though Sembrano sees little chance of influencing 
Obando and like-minded prelates on this issue, he said that 
the Holy See would not be disappointed when the Cardinal is 
out of the spotlight.  End Summary. 
No Government Campaign against the Church 
¶2.  (C) Vatican Country Director for Nicaragua Lucio Sembrano 
(protect throughout) told us July 8 that the Holy See did not 
regard current Church-State tensions in Nicaragua (reftels) 
as a result of any campaign against the Church by the GON. 
While not entirely excusing government offenses against the 
Church, Sembrano said the Bolanos government had been "very 
patient" in handling the "noisy" opposition coming from 
certain parties within the church, specifically Cardinal 
Miguel Obando y Bravo.  Bolanos "is doing his best" in a 
difficult situation, Sembrano said. 
Hierarchy not Helping Matters 
¶3.  (C) Sembrano made it clear he thought Cardinal Obando was 
not helping matters.  Though he did not seem aware that 
Obando had agreed to celebrate the July 19 anniversary Mass 
(ref b), Sembrano suggested that Obando "naively" believed 
that Daniel Ortega had "reformed himself."  Obando "doesn't 
realize the ramifications of some of his actions," Sembrano 
Vatican Pressure 
¶4.  (C) Sembrano led us to believe that Vatican pressure on 
Obando and other churchmen to temper provocative actions in 
relation to the government was ineffective.  On the other 
hand, Sembrano told us, the Vatican would not be disappointed 
when Obando, who is already beyond the standard episcopal 
retirement age of 75, left the spotlight.  Though Sembrano 
did not name any leading candidates waiting in the wings to 
replace Obando, he noted that Catholic Prelature Opus Dei 
might be in a position to influence the eventual choice, as 
it is strong in Nicaragua. 
Papal Nuncio Active, but Unheeded 
¶5.  (C) As far as other Vatican opportunities to influence 
the situation, Sembrano said that current Papal Nuncio 
Jean-Paul Gobel was "active," but predicted that he would 
inevitably find himself on the wrong side of the Nicaraguan 
bishops -- if he wasn't already there.  Most attempts to 
influence the bishops tended to alienate them, he said, as 
they were strong willed and resented interference, even from 
Rome.  He said the previous nuncio had experienced the same 
1861 Concordat 
¶6.  (C) When asked about the GON's renewed interest in the 
1861 Concordat (ref b), Sembrano noted that government 
officials had approached Gobel and asked for a copy of the 
document.  They also asked for a list of all the previous 
nuncios who had served in Managua, as apparently the archives 
containing this information had been destroyed.  Sembrano 
said the Holy See was not concerned about the Concordat 
affair; there was talk of updating the document, but the 
Vatican would of course do nothing without consulting the 
Bishops' Conference. 
¶7.  (C) Sembrano, who always speaks frankly with us, 
displayed a sympathy for the Nicaraguan government that was 
striking given current tensions.  This, however, does not 
mean the Vatican can or will influence the situation.  The 
Holy See is typically less willing to meddle in political 
issues than it is in theological matters.  Even when it does 
wade into politics, its leverage on bishops is weaker when it 
comes to political affairs than it is with issues of "faith 
and morals." 
¶8.  (C) Further, though Sembrano implied that the Vatican 
would be content to see the 78-year-old Obando retire, in 
fact, the matter lies entirely in the Pope's hands.  A bishop 
must offer his resignation to the Pope when he turns 75. 
Though the Pope asks some prelates to continue to serve 
beyond age 75, he can at any later date move to accept their 
resignation.  Having initially declined Obando's resignation 
three years ago, the Vatican may now be simply waiting for a 
lull in the political action to ease him discretely into 
retirement.  However, the Holy See could be so hesitant to 
risk action in this environment that it will now allow Obando 
effectively to decide on his own when he wants to hang up his