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06VATICAN128 2006-07-07 15:38:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
Cable title:  

HOLY SEE: POPE TO EMPHASIZE FAMILY VALUES IN SPAIN

Tags:   PREL SOCI VT SP 
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1. (C) In advance of Pope Benedict XVI's July 8 departure for
Valencia, Spain for the World Meeting of Families, Post spoke to
the Holy See and to Spanish representation to the Vatican.
Vatican officials acknowledged to us that issues such as relaxed
regulations on divorce, embryonic stem cell research,
recognition of same-sex marriage, and approval of homosexual
adoption have caused some tension between the Holy See and the
Zapatero government. They said the pope would raise these
issues as they relate to Spain only in private bilateral
meetings, though the more general remarks on the same would
obviously have implications for the Spanish context. Spanish
DCM Luis Belzuz (protect) reported that the Holy See requested
that Spain try to keep a low profile on protests or other
controversy while the pope was in Valencia. He claimed that
while the Zapatero government had taken some radical positions
on "family issues" it now wants to move toward the center. This
may have helped relations with the Vatican, he concluded. All
told, Belzuz said Spain sees the papal visit as an opportunity
for improved relations. This will be a significant trip for Pope
Benedict, as he picks his spots for travel very carefully. In
traveling to Spain he has a chance to impact two of his key
goals: bolstering the traditional family, and encouraging a
traditionally Catholic country to stay true to the faith. End
Summary.




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World Meeting of Families


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2. (SBU) Pope Benedict XVI heads to Valencia, Spain on July 8 to
close the fifth World Meeting of Families. He will use this
opportunity to bring his message of uncompromising support for
the traditional family and Catholic values to Spain, a country
that has ruffled the Vatican's feathers with recent movement on
"family and life issues." Though the trip is not focused on
bilateral relations, the pope will meet privately with King Juan
Carlos and Prime Minister Zapatero while in Spain.




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Holy See Thinking


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3. (C) Monsignor Paolo Gualtieri, Country Director for Spain at
the Holy See's foreign ministry, acknowledged to us that issues
such as relaxed regulations on divorce, embryonic stem cell
research, recognition of same-sex marriage, and approval of
homosexual adoption have caused some tension between the Holy
See and the Zapatero government. Though the GOS position on
these issues will not be a focus of public remarks by the pope,
Gualtieri told us that Benedict will certainly raise these
matters privately. "The purpose of the visit is pastoral" said
Gualtieri; "the Holy Father will address issues confronting the
family in their universal context." Gualtieri nonetheless
conceded that the sociopolitical context in Spain would make the
implications of the pope's comments clear.




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Spanish DCM


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4. (C) DCM spoke with his Spanish counterpart Luis Belzuz
(protect) about the visit; following comments are drawn from
this conversation:


-- The Holy See is very satisfied with the organizational
arrangements. Benedict will be in town about 24 hours over two
days. The pope will call on the king, then receive the prime
minister. The Holy See requested that Spain keep a low profile;
in particular, asking that protests by, say, homosexual groups
during the Family Week not occur when the pope is actually
present.


-- Cardinals Lopez Trujillo (President of the Pontifical Council
for the Family and outspoken conservative) and Secretary of
State Cardinal Sodano met the Spanish and Latin American
ambassadors to the Holy See (in a group) recently; Lopez
Trujillo was uncharacteristically "mild" and assured those

VATICAN 00000128 002.2 OF 002


present that papal statements made in Spain would be of a
general nature and about the family -- i.e. not singling out
Spain for any criticism.


-- Ironically, the visit was initially arranged three years ago,
when former Prime Minister Aznar was at his peak. Circumstances
have of course changed, with well-known difficulties between the
Holy See and Spain occurring as a result. The Zapatero
government had taken some radical positions (Belzuz likened them
to what MP Emma Bonino would endorse here in Italy); but now
wants to move toward the center. This may have some soothing
effect on neuralgic issues with the church, such as gay
marriage. The Vatican is aware of, and welcomes, this shift.


-- The GOS is hoping that First Vice Prime Minister Maria Teresa
Fernandez de la Vega will get a higher profile; she's been in
Rome twice recently, first for a "half-secret" visit, then in a
semipublic visit (perhaps with Cardinal Sodano); this is
important for Madrid.


-- The Spanish church is deeply divided on tactics in dealing
with the government; some hard-line bishops are very vocal
against it, but many others are opposed to such an overt
approach.


-- The Zapatero government is working on two main issues
important to Spanish church organizationally -- religious
education in schools, and financing of churches -- and expects a
resolution by this fall.


-- All told, Spain sees the papal visit as opportunity. The
government was very happy with Benedict's statement a few months
ago in support of the Spanish peace process with ETA; this is
high priority for Zapatero and the Holy See understands its
importance too. Papal statements remain hugely influential in
Spain, even with ETA (which got its start in universities and
seminaries and was launched by students affiliated with PNV,
itself founded as a conservative Catholic entity).


-- There are no plans at present for a Zapatero visit to the
Pope; that would have to be linked to some development (e.g. in
internal GOS talks with Spanish church) so that the visit could
be characterized as Zapatero coming to discuss those
developments with the pope.




--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





5. (C) This will be a significant trip for Pope Benedict, as he
picks his spots for travel very carefully. In traveling to
Spain he has a chance to impact two of his key goals: bolstering
the traditional family, and encouraging a traditionally Catholic
country to stay true to the faith. Meanwhile, there are some
indications that both the Holy See and Spain would welcome a
rapprochement in relations; it looks unlikely that any
sharp-edged political exchanges will occur during the visit. We
look forward to any comments Embassy Madrid may have following
the visit.
ROONEY