Viewing cable 08VATICAN61
Title: HOLY SEE ON MADRID INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFERENCE

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08VATICAN612008-08-04 13:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
VZCZCXRO2766
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RUEHSR
DE RUEHROV #0061/01 2171355
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041355Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0969
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHJI/AMCONSUL JEDDAH PRIORITY 0001
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1003
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VATICAN 000061 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  8/4/2028 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KIRF SA SP VT
SUBJECT: HOLY SEE ON MADRID INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFERENCE 
 
REF: A. A) RIYADH 1170 AND PREVIOUS 
     ¶B. B) 07 VATICAN 180 (NOTAL) 
     ¶C. C) VATICAN 44 AND PREVIOUS (NOTAL) 
 
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CLASSIFIED BY: RFOLEY, A/DCM. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: For the Holy See, the most important aspect of 
the July 16 to 18 Madrid inter-religious conference (reftel A) 
is the fact that the Saudi King was firmly behind it.  The 
Madrid conference was disappointing in its failure to address 
religious freedom and, to a lesser extent, to set up dates for 
further, follow-up meetings.  The Holy See hopes that the 
Saudis' substantial involvement in the world of inter-religious 
dialogue will lead to concrete measures advancing freedom of 
religion.  From Post's perspective, the USG interest in 
inter-religious dialogue is twofold: first, to promote platforms 
that allow representatives of the overwhelming majority of 
Muslims who reject violence the possibility of speaking up 
against terrorism; and second, to promote religious freedom, 
which is often a catalyst for all fundamental human rights.  End 
SUMMARY. 
 
¶2.  (C) On July 22 A/DCM met with Monsignor Alberto Ortega, 
Director for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States at the Holy See's 
Secretariat of State Section for Relations with States (ministry 
of foreign affairs equivalent) to discuss the Madrid conference. 
 A/DCM also met with Monsignor Khaled Akasheh on July 23. 
Akasheh is the point person for the Middle East at the 
Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and a member of 
the Holy See delegation to the conference. 
 
 
WHY DIALOGUE? 
------------- 
 
¶3.  (C) Monsignor Ortega welcomed the Saudi initiative to 
convene the conference, tracing it to the Pope's meeting with 
the Saudi King on November 19, 2007 (reftel B).  Ortega thought 
that King Abdallah was aware of freedom of worship developments 
in Qatar (i.e., the opening of a Catholic Church there) and of 
the Jordanian royal family's support for the Amman-based Aal 
Al-Bayt institute's "A Common Word" inter-religious dialogue 
initiative (reftel C).  Ortega believes that these two 
developments, together with ongoing efforts to improve the image 
of Islam in the post 9/11 world, influenced Abdallah to convene 
the Madrid meeting and counter the possibility of having the 
Custodian of Islam's Holy Places sidelined in discussions about 
the present and future of Islam. 
 
¶4.  (C) Ortega lamented that no date had been fixed for a Madrid 
follow-up meeting that would help to establish a continuous 
Saudi-sponsored inter-religious dialogue, in the way that the "A 
common Word" dialogue has been institutionalized through the 
Catholic-Muslim Forum.  At the same time, he said, the Holy See 
understands that the Saudis have to proceed with caution because 
of internal opposition and the risk of a backlash against the 
King if he proceeds too boldly.  For Ortega, a great value of 
inter-religious dialogue with Muslim representatives is its 
effect on different currents of thought within Islam.  Even if 
there are no "Muslim concessions" vis-`-vis Christians, dialogue 
has the positive effect of raising the profile of Muslim leaders 
that unambiguously denounce and oppose violence in the name of 
religion, as did the final declaration of the conference. 
 
ATTAINING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 
--------------------------- 
 
¶5.  (C) Monsignor Akasheh also welcomed the initiative, noting 
that Saudi sponsorship was more important than the actual 
substance of the discussions that took place.  Akasheh stated 
that the conference was a good --even if limited-- first step in 
a dialogue he hopes would help change attitudes among an 
influential segment of Islamic leaders and institutions.  He 
noted as an example of such institutions the organizer of the 
meeting, the World Muslim League (WML).  According to Akasheh, 
the WML, ironically, has a formal "committee to prevent the 
spread of Christianity". 
 
¶6.  (SBU) In addressing the shortfalls of the meeting, Akasheh 
referred to the statements that the President of the Pontifical 
Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran 
made to the L'Osservatore Romano newspaper on July 23.  Tauran, 
who headed the Holy See's delegation, criticized the failure of 
the conference final declaration to address religious freedom. 
This means, Tauran said, that considerable problems remain in 
understanding the difference between freedom of worship and 
religious freedom.  Previously, the Cardinal had stated that "it 
is vital that religious freedom be considered as more than the 
important necessity of having places of worship --which is the 
least one can expect.  Religious freedom must also include the 
 
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opportunity for believers to actively participate in public 
discourse." 
 
¶7.  (C) Akasheh said that the Holy See understands that in 
certain countries with a Muslim majority change will only come 
incrementally, if it comes at all. (Note: Akasheh advocated the 
terminology "countries with a Muslim majority" rather than 
"Muslim" or "Islamic" countries. End note.)  He added, however, 
that as a matter of principle the Holy See will always promote 
true freedom of religion, which includes, among other things, 
the right to convert from one religion to another. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶8.  (C) While the Holy See agreed with and welcomed the Madrid 
meeting's condemnation of terrorism, it expects more from 
inter-religious dialogue.  There is a sense among Holy See 
officials and Catholic commentators that inter-religious 
meetings are primarily motivated by Muslim leaders' legitimate 
goal of improving the image of Islam.  That Islam is not a 
violent religion is something that the Holy See will not dispute 
publicly, particularly since the Pope's September 2006 
Regensburg address, which some Muslims interpreted as the Pope's 
equating Islam with violence.  What the Holy See wants to get 
out of inter-religious dialogue with Muslim representatives is 
their assistance, commitment and concrete action --where it is 
within their power as political leaders--to achieve true freedom 
of religion. 
GLENDON