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03VATICAN5611 2003-12-16 13:01:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  VATICAN 005611 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2013


B. VAT 03820


D. VAT 4649

Classified By: Ambassador Jim Nicholson for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)


1. (C) In a December 3 meeting, Vatican Office Director for
China Gianfranco Rota-Graziosi was pessimistic on prospects
for progress on human rights and religious freedom in China.
He noted continuing persecution of both the underground
Catholic Church and the government-controlled Catholic
Patriotic Association (CPA), and said the Vatican finds it
hard to keep up to date with the frequent arrests of
Catholics. The Holy See has no plans for a change in
strategy toward China, and Rota-Graziosi mentioned in this
regard the Vatican's low-key approach to the Dalai Lama and
its differences with the activist, U.S.-based Cardinal Kung
Foundation. Despite his predictions of limited progress,
Rota-Graziosi called for continuing U.S. and international
pressure on China to abide by international human rights
agreements and norms on religious freedom. End Summary.


Persecution of State-Sponsored Church...


2. (C) In a December 3 meeting with Poloff, Vatican Office
Director for China Gianfranco Rota-Graziosi saw little cause
of optimism regarding human rights and religious freedom in
China. He noted continuing persecution of both the
underground Catholic Church and the state-supervised Catholic
Patriotic Association (CPA). In fact, Rota-Graziosi said, he
felt in many ways conditions were deteriorating, even for the
CPA community. In addition to manipulation of CPA bishops,
elections and state control over seminaries, each CPA bishop
essentially lived under house arrest, according to
Rota-Graziosi, with a government &aide8 always at his side,
attending all of his meetings and reporting to the
government. On the positive side, Rota-Graziosi did note
more opportunities for CPA seminarians to study abroad.


...and Underground Catholics


3. (C) Rota-Graziosi's reaction to media reports of recent
arrests of underground Church members was muted. He said
that such arrests were so commonplace that it was difficult
to keep track of them. According to Rota-Graziosi, all
underground bishops were currently being detained in some
way. Some were in prison, some kept in police houses, and
still others had had no contact with the Holy See for two to
four years. The Holy See had not set out to develop the
underground Church, he noted. The goal had always been and
would always be to have a unified Church out in the open -- a
"visible sign" for all people. Given China's political
situation, however, the Vatican had to live with the
realities of the split Catholic Church in China for the time


Cardinal Kung Foundation


4. (C) Rota-Graziosi allowed that the publicizing of
religious freedom abuses in China by the U.S.-based Cardinal
Kung Foundation was helpful. But he noted that the NGO had
no working relationship with the Vatican. The Kung
Foundation focuses its advocacy efforts on the underground
Church and disagrees with the Vatican's strategy of promoting
reconciliation between the official and state-run churches.
According to Rota-Graziosi, the Foundation favors a more
aggressive approach than the Holy See can take. Despite
serious disagreements, he acknowledged the importance of the
voice the Kung Foundation gave to those suffering in the
underground Church.


No Change of Approach on Dalai Lama


5. (SBU) We turned next to the recent meeting between the
Pope and the Dalai Lama, which was downplayed in official
Vatican media and referred to as merely &a religious
courtesy call8 by the Vatican spokesman. Rota-Graziosi told
us that the Vatican &doesn't want to make trouble8 with
China or complicate China's relationship with the Dalai Lama
on such occasions, but added that the treatment of the visit
was consistent with that of previous meetings. He said the
Pope always receives the Dalai Lama as a religious leader,
rather than a politician-in-exile.


Continued Pressure Needed


6. (C) Rota-Graziosi was unaware of the most recent
developments in the EU-China dialogue on human rights (ref
a), but called for continuing pressure by the international
community -- and especially the U.S. -- on China to live up
to international commitments and norms for human rights and
religious freedom. He cautioned the U.S. against intervening
on specific religious freedom cases, lest such efforts
produce a government backlash; however, he said he did not
think China was feeling too much international pressure in
general at the moment.


Comment: Pessimism Rules the Day


7. (C) Rota-Graziosi's outlook was more pessimistic than
views we have heard recently from other Holy See officials
(ref b). He sees few options for Vatican action in China.
"Anything we do in China is 50 percent advantage, 50 percent
disadvantage," he said. If the Holy See pushes harder for
religious freedom, there is likely to be a backlash; if it
stays mute, then more Catholics will be persecuted under a
veil of silence. Fretting about a communist mentality that
had taken generations to develop, he said it would take
"generations, or even centuries" to change it. Further, he
said, the Holy See is simply not a presence in the lives of
Chinese Catholics -- or Asians in general -- as it is in the
West, thus limiting the Vatican's potential impact. He did
not expect concrete improvement stemming from the informal
trip last summer of Washington Cardinal McCarrick to China
(ref c). Rota-Graziosi's outlook, perhaps jaded by the
dashed expectations of the past couple of years when repeated
hints of openings have brought no significant change from the
PRC, will likely have an influence on the thinking of new
Vatican Foreign Minister Lajolo, who comes to his post
without substantial Asian experience (ref d), but who regards
the relationship with China as one of his top four priorities.



2003VATICA05611 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL