C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000262
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2016
TAGS: PREL CU VT
SUBJECT: CUBA: NUN COMMENTS ON FIDEL'S HEALTH
REF: 04 Vatican 1401
CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Sandrolini, Deputy Chief of Mission,
REASON: 1.4 (d)
Â¶1. (C) Summary. A prominent abbess in Rome described her recent
visit to Havana and commented on the state of Castro's health in
a December 12 meeting with Ambassador; she also suggested some
possible contacts for the USG. The abbess has been
controversial in the past. End summary.
Â¶2. (C) Ambassador Rooney called on Mother Tekla Famiglietti,
Abbess General of the Brigittine Order of the Most Holy Savior,
on December 12. Mother Tekla -- in charge of the Brigittines
for some 25 years and sometimes called ""the most powerful woman
in Rome"" -- had just returned from a visit to Cuba. She had
hoped to meet Fidel Castro, whom she had befriended some years
earlier (reftel) at the inauguration of Mexican President
Â¶3. (C) Mother Tekla said that during this trip she found a
different attitude among priests, nuns, and government contacts;
there is a feeling of impending change resulting from the coming
end of the Fidel era. People want change, though some of those
close to Fidel are threatened by it. Mother Tekla commented
that Cubans would be less agitated in Cuba itself than in Miami
when the changes begin. She hoped the USG would not wait for
Castro's death to begin opening up, but would instead act now to
relax the embargo and help people; this would also steal a march
on others, such as China, who are already on the ground.
Â¶4. (C) Mother Tekla said she had been to Fidel's house many
times before, typically meeting first with his private secretary
Carlos Valenciaga Diaz. She had intended to do so this time,
but then felt that Castro was now too weak and ill. Diaz told
her that Fidel has lost 20 kilos and is a shadow of his former
self; he does not have cancer but is bleeding from the stomach.
A room in Castro's house has been converted into a hospital room.
Â¶5. (C) Mother Tekla said she works with Licencia Caridad, head
of the ministry for religious affairs, and Eusebio Leal Spencer,
whom Castro put in charge of getting a new facility built for
Mother Tekla. She thinks Spencer may know some people who might
be of interest to the USG as potential leaders once a government
change has occurred.
Â¶6. (C) Mother Tekla is well known in Rome (if sometimes
controversial), and we have reported on meeting her in the past.
Reftel describes a flap over her 2004 visit to Havana with
Cardinal Sepe for the opening of the Brigittines' house there,
which Castro used as a propaganda opportunity to the
embarrassment of the Holy See. We report this conversation for
its possible interest in terms of news about Fidel's health, and
the suggested contacts.