Viewing cable 05VATICAN530
Title: VATICAN POSITIVE ON RUSSIA TRIP

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VATICAN5302005-11-08 16:52:00 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 000530 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
EUR/WE (JLARREA); EUR/RUS (GRONDELSKI, ARMSTRONG) 
DRL/IRF (KELLY); EUR/RPM 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  11/8/2015 
TAGS: PHUM PREL KIRF VT RU
SUBJECT: VATICAN POSITIVE ON RUSSIA TRIP 
 
REF: A) VATICAN 0400; B) VATICAN 382; C) 04 VATICAN 1171; D) VATICAN 518 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Peter Martin, Pol/Econ Chief, Vatican, State. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
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Summary 
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¶1.  (C)  Holy See FM Lajolo told the Ambassador November 3 that 
his recent trip to Russia had been a useful step forward for 
Vatican relations with Russia and the Orthodox Church (ROC). 
Lajolo said he raised with Russian FM Lavrov the Holy See's 
perception that Russia was captive to the Orthodox Church in its 
diplomacy with the Vatican.  Lavrov admitted that ROC interests 
inevitably figured into the diplomatic equation, but insisted 
that his government made its own decisions on Vatican diplomacy. 
 Lavrov brought up Ukraine, clearly concerned about the role the 
Latin and Greek-rite Catholic Churches might play in orienting 
the country further West, and then complained about a perceived 
"double standard" on the part of the OSCE's Office of Democratic 
Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) regarding Russia.  ROC 
Head of External Relations Metropolitan Kirill also raised the 
Ukraine issue with Lajolo and addressed familiar themes of 
alleged Catholic proselytism.  According to Lajolo, the Kirill 
meeting was "cordial," but the Vatican made its points on the 
religious freedom issue by releasing the texts of interviews 
Lajolo gave to Russian media outlets, calling for "equal dignity 
and equal freedom" for Catholics in Russia.  Though there may 
have been few concrete results from the trip, Lajolo emphasized 
that "all dialogue is positive."  End Summary. 
 
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Step Forward 
------------ 
 
¶2.      (C) Holy See FM-equivalent Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo told 
the Ambassador during his November 3 welcome call that his 
recent trip to Russia had been a useful step forward for Vatican 
relations with Russia and the Orthodox Church (ROC).  Lajolo 
admitted that the trip had yielded few concrete accomplishments, 
but said that in the broad context of Vatican interests in the 
region, any step forward - even symbolic - was important. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
Russian Government - Orthodox Church Connections 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
¶3.  (C) Lajolo noted that an invitation from Russian FM Lavrov 
in June had brought about the visit.  Lajolo said that when he 
met Lavrov, he did not shy away from perhaps the key point in 
Vatican - Russian relations, raising with him the Holy See's 
perception that Russia was captive to the Orthodox Church in its 
diplomacy with the Vatican.  Lavrov admitted that ROC interests 
inevitably figured into the diplomatic equation, but insisted 
that his government charted its course on Vatican diplomacy 
independent of an ROC imprimatur.  Lajolo told the Ambassador he 
was not naive about Orthodox influence upon the government, and 
noted that President Putin's wife had strong ties to the ROC. 
 
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Ukraine a Concern 
----------------- 
 
¶4.  (C) Lajolo half-joked that he tried to avoid talking about 
Ukraine with Lavrov, but the Russian FM brought it up anyway, 
clearly concerned about the role the Latin and Greek-rite 
Catholic Churches might play in orienting the country further 
West.  It was no news to Lajolo that the Russians saw these 
churches -- and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - as a potential 
threat to Russian cultural influence.  Moreover, in previous 
conversations with Post about the Ukrainian election 
controversy, Holy See officials have praised the role of 
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, whose public 
statements boosted the Orange Revolution (ref b).  These 
sentiments notwithstanding, Lajolo said he assured Lavrov that 
the Catholic Church had no intention of trying to influence the 
Ukraine's balance between East and West. 
 
------------------------------- 
"Special" Relations with Russia 
------------------------------- 
 
¶5. (C) Lajolo discussed with the Ambassador the "relations of a 
special nature" established between the Holy See and Russia in 
1990 with an exchange of "representatives with the rank of 
ambassador" rather than fully accredited ambassadors.  In Russia 
Lajolo had told the press that the current state of relations 
did not reflect the weight that each state wielded in the world, 
and he opened the door for an upgrade in relations.  With the 
Ambassador, Lajolo did not place as much emphasis on this issue, 
 
 
though he noted that the state of relations was on full display 
at the many papal events at the Vatican, at which the Russian 
chief of mission had to sit in protocol order behind all the 
other ambassadors. 
 
--------------- 
OSCE Complaints 
--------------- 
 
¶6. (C) Lavrov also brought up the OSCE with Lajolo, charging 
that the organization (in particular the OSCE's Office of 
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR) operated with a 
"double standard" between Russia and Western Europe.  Lavrov 
complained that ODIHR operated too independently of OSCE 
leadership.  [Note: The Holy See is a full member of the OSCE 
and has engaged us on some OSCE issues.  In this case, Lajolo 
did not give an opinion on the Russian charges.  End note.] 
 
--------------------------- 
Kirill Hits Familiar Themes 
--------------------------- 
 
¶7.  (C) Lajolo also met with ROC Head of External Relations 
Metropolitan Kirill (ROC Patriarch Alexi was out of town, and 
Kirill is Lajolo's counterpart in any case).  He was encouraged 
by Kirill's pledge to work with the Holy See on the promotion of 
common values in an increasingly secular Europe, though this did 
not break new ground in Catholic-ROC relations.  Kirill, too, 
raised the issue of Catholic influence in Ukraine, but Lajolo 
noted that members of the Latin and Greek rites of the Catholic 
Church in Ukraine had ongoing intra-Catholic disputes.  They 
might not be as likely as Kirill feared, Lajolo said, to join 
with the Ukrainian Orthodox to pull the country away from 
Russia. 
 
¶8.  (C)  No Catholic-ROC discussion is complete without ample 
charges of Catholic proselytism, and Kirill did not disappoint. 
Lajolo recounted for the Ambassador the traditional Catholic 
frustrations on the issue.  The ROC viewed its lands as its 
private "hunting ground" - canonical territory in which only the 
ROC should hold sway, Lajolo explained.  He emphasized that the 
Catholic Church had no program or interest in converting members 
of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Lajolo complained, however, 
that in ROC eyes, even Russian atheists without the slightest 
connection to the ROC were off limits, and innocuous Catholic 
social programs for the poor or Catholic-run orphanages were 
regarded as part of a grand plot to undermine the Orthodox. 
"Only now," Lajolo observed, was the ROC starting to engage in 
social justice issues.  Once the Orthodox started to realize 
that such engagement was a legitimate aspect of a church's 
mission not necessarily connected to proselytism, he said, he 
hoped they would be less suspicious of Catholic endeavors. 
 
------------------------------- 
Vatican Releases Interview Texts 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶9.  (SBU)  While the meeting with Kirill was "cordial," the Holy 
See made its point on the religious freedom issue by releasing 
the texts of interviews Lajolo gave to Russian media outlets. 
In the interviews, the Holy See FM urged Russian Orthodox 
authorities to concede the country's Catholics "equal dignity 
and equal freedom," while at the same time acknowledging the 
Orthodox Church's "predominant position."  Lajolo emphasized 
that the small Catholic community in the country was "truly 
Russian" - something he also emphasized to the Ambassador. 
Though Russia's Catholics are predominantly of Polish and German 
extraction, Lajolo pointed out that the community has deep roots 
in Russia.  He admitted that Catholic Church leadership in 
Russia was often foreign. 
 
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Papal Visit 
----------- 
 
¶10.  (C)  As for a papal visit to Russia - long sought by Pope 
John Paul II - Lajolo commented publicly that Pope Benedict XVI 
would not visit the country if it did not contribute to greater 
understanding and agreement between Catholics and Russian 
Orthodox.  Privately, he told us that despite the pope's 
emphasis on closer unity with the Orthodox, we should not expect 
a papal visit to Russia soon. 
 
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Comment 
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¶11.  (C)  Lajolo was very open with the Ambassador in their 
initial meeting, and the two touched on several issues.  In 
response to comments from the FM, the Ambassador outlined the 
President's plans to combat avian flu, and he encouraged the 
Holy See to continue its strong statements against terrorism, 
 
 
such as the pope made recently in Cologne (ref d). 
 
¶12.  (C)  But having just returned from the East, Lajolo's main 
focus was still Russia.  He was under no illusions about the 
pace of improved relations with the ROC, and observed that the 
road would be difficult, as the Russians continued to be 
suspicious of the West.  Still, Lajolo maintained that trips 
such as his could help continue dialogue and build relations. 
He was pleased that a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological 
commission would be reinvigorated after his trip.  This may be 
nothing more than a "chance for us to sit down and drink some 
tea - or vodka," Lajolo said, "but all dialogue is positive." 
 
ROONEY 
 
 
SANDROLINI 
 
 
NNNN 

 2005VATICA00530 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL