Viewing cable 05VATICAN253
Title: CATHOLIC AID ORGANIZATIONS: TSUMANI RESPONSE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VATICAN2532005-01-25 15:42:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vatican
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS  VATICAN 000253 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (LEVIN); G/TIP (ETERNO), EAP/PIMBS, EAP/BCLTV, SA/IN 
AF/E 
 
E.O. 12958 N/A 
TAGS: PREL PHUM EAID SENV SOCI CE ID IN ML MY TH VT
SUBJECT: CATHOLIC AID ORGANIZATIONS: TSUMANI RESPONSE 
 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1.(U) The Holy See and Catholic aid agencies have raised 
some $500 million for tsunami relief and reconstruction 
efforts in Asia, with local branches of these agencies 
coordinating relief efforts made possible by these 
donations.  The Caritas network is targeting its efforts in 
Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and is 
cooperating with local authorities and member groups 
already on the ground.  The Vatican appreciates U.S. public 
and private donor generosity, and, in the face of 
significant logistical challenges, generally values the 
assistance of the U.S. military.  Some in the Vatican aid 
community, however, have expressed reservations about U.S. 
military assistance.  Officials from Caritas and other 
Catholic-affiliated organizations made clear to us that, 
unlike some other religious groups active in Muslim areas, 
they have no intention of using disaster relief as a method 
of proselytism.  Senior Vatican officials are continuing to 
focus international attention on the tragedy, with the Pope 
raising concerns about human trafficking, and other 
Cardinals hosting fundraisers and holding masses for 
victims.  End summary. 
 
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MASSIVE AID EFFORT LOCALLY-RUN 
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2.(U) Catholic aid agencies have raised some $500 
million for Indian Ocean tsunami victims in response to 
Pope John Paul II's repeated appeals for "genuine gestures 
of solidarity."  Among these, Caritas Internationalis has 
raised more than $261 million, $25 million of which has 
come from U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS). 
(Note: Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 
Catholic relief, development, and social service 
organizations present in over 200 countries and 
territories.  It is acting as the hub of tsunami relief 
efforts affiliated with the Catholic Church.  End note.) 
 
¶3.  (SBU) Caritas' Rome-based staffer Nik Bredholdt told us 
his network had chosen to target Indonesia, India, Sri 
Lanka and Thailand, with a different focus for each, 
depending on the country's needs and the capacities of 
member groups on the ground before the disaster.  He noted 
that Sri Lanka had attracted the greatest interest from 
affiliated organizations, with substantial pledges of aid 
for rebuilding flowing in.  There, as elsewhere, logistics 
have been as much or more of a challenge than a lack of 
funds.  Bredholdt noted that the lack of a comprehensive 
church structure in Indonesia had slowed efforts.  Although 
CRS was well established on the ground there, it had not 
been active in the affected areas before the tsunami, and 
thus needed some time to set up their services.  Caritas- 
affiliated organizations in affected countries have offered 
food, clothing, medicine, medical care, water purification 
and sanitation, psychological counselling, and other 
services.  Caritas is also working on long-term 
rehabilitation and reconstruction for affected communities 
by building homes, replacing destroyed fishing equipment, 
and donating funds for work programs. 
 
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Praise and Concern on U.S. Military Involvement 
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4.(SBU) Holy See Country Director for Indonesia 
Monsignor Luis Montemayor expressed appreciation for U.S. 
generosity and for the logistical assistance of the 
American military.  "Your helicopters" are the only way in 
to many devastated areas, he said.  According to 
Montemayor, the presence of the U.S. military in Indonesia 
did not appear to be an especially sensitive issue.  Some 
other Catholic officials, however, had some qualms about 
the military presence.  Bredholdt, who recently returned 
from Sri Lanka, told us he believed the U.S. military 
assistance posed a problem because locals did not regard it 
as disinterested aid.  He claimed that Catholic officials 
had turned down an offer to use military transport for food 
distribution because it would have compromised the Catholic 
Church's "image and perceived neutrality."  An AMCIT Holy 
 
See official told us that many in the Catholic relief 
community are suspicious of U.S. military involvement, 
perhaps owing to the opposition many share for USG military 
efforts in Iraq. 
 
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CATHOLIC GROUPS SAY THEY AIM TO HELP, NOT CONVERT 
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5.(SBU) Montemayor told us that Caritas and other 
Catholic-affiliated groups had no intention of using 
disaster relief as a method of proselytism, and were being 
careful to avoidpredominantly Muslim areas likewise 
told Vatican-based media that they were taking care not to 
give the impression they were using the disaster as a 
pretext for evangelization.  The situation according to 
Catholic missionaries working ier into the stricken areas will 
remain well into the post-emergency phase.  Archbishop Celestino 
Migliore, the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the UN, said 
January 18 that faith-based organizations in the field needed 
to be allowed to work directly with the populace.  In a similar 
vein, the Vatican's nuncio in Indonesia said that when the 
media spotlight dims, the missionaries will be the ones who 
implement long-term reconstruction plans. 
 
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TRAFFICKING WORRIES 
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¶6.   (SBU) Vatican officials from the Pope on down have 
expressed concern about a rise in human trafficking as one 
of the byproducts of the tsunami.  In early January the 
Pope told thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square that he 
was praying for the "young victims of the earthquake in 
Asia," particularly those who had been "kidnapped, lost, or 
exploited in vile trafficking."  Father Michael Osborn from 
the Vatican's aid clearinghouse, "Cor Unum," told us he was 
particularly worried about tsunami orphans being trafficked 
for sexual and other purposes, noting that he had heard 
several anecdotal reports of such crime from contacts on 
the ground.  Vatican-based media reported comments by 
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, newly-appointed President of the 
Pontifical Academy for Life, on the same subject.  Sgreccia 
said certain agencies had begun offering adoption services 
at a cost, apparently with little knowledge of the ultimate 
fate of the children involved.  "Our civilization must make 
this disgrace disappear," he insisted. 
 
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PRAYER AND MONEY 
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¶7.  (U)  While relief efforts continue in Asia, Vatican 
City has also been a locus of activity.  U.S. Cardinal 
Bernard Law, now administrator of one of the Holy See's 
major basilicas, hosted a well-attended concert on January 
5 that raised money for Cor Unum's relief efforts.  The 
Vatican also held a formal mass at St. Peter's Basilica 
January 24 at which the diplomatic corps and other 
dignitaries prayed for tsunami victims.  Holy See Secretary 
of State (Prime Minister equivalent) Cardinal Angelo Sodano 
celebrated the mass with a host of prelates from affected 
countries, reflecting the Holy See's desire to maintain 
public awareness of the continuing crisis.  Along with more 
theological observations about the disaster, Sodano 
stressed the Pope's commitment to help those affected by 
the tsunami. 
 
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COMMENT 
 
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9.(U) The Pope and the international Catholic aid 
agencies have moved quickly to respond to the tsunami. 
Papal Nuncios in affected countries were quick to visit the 
worst hit regions, coordinating aid efforts and attempting 
to raise morale.  We were told that Cor Unum President 
Archbishop Cordes will likely visit the region later this 
week to inspect conditions on the ground and make a further 
Papal donation to relief efforts.  We can expect to see 
Vatican-based relief agencies and local missionaries at the 
forefront of aid and reconstruction work in the months and 
years ahead.  End comment. 
 
Hardt 
 
 
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 2005VATICA00253 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED