WikiLeaks bares Vatican's diplomatic soul

WikiLeaks bares Vatican's diplomatic soul

Cables depict an isolated Pope, protected from bad news

Cables sent from the US embassy to the Vatican to the State Department depict Pope Benedict as sometimes isolated as aides try to protect him from bad news, and say his number two is seen as a “yes man” with little credibility among diplomats. The cables were published by the Guardian newspaper, one of several news organisations which have been given access to the leaked cables from US embassies around the world. A long cable in February 2009, though couched in diplomatic language, reads like a scathing criticism of the Vatican’s internal and external communications structures, which are held responsible for some of Pope Benedict’s biggest public mishaps.

“The Holy See’s communications operation is suffering from ‘muddled messaging’ partly as a result of cardinals’ technophobia and ignorance about 21st century communications. Only one senior papal adviser has a Blackberry and few have e-mail accounts. It has led to PR blunders on issues as sensitive as the Holocaust,” a US diplomat writes.

The cable calls the pope’s inner circle of advisers old “Italo-centric” men uncomfortable with information technology and the “rough and tumble of media communications”.
The pope’s right-hand man, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is depicted as a “yes man” with no diplomatic experience or linguistic skills and the cable suggests that the pope is protected from bad news. “There is also the question of who, if anyone, brings dissenting views to the pope’s attention,” it says.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi (the one official praised for knowing how to use a Blackberry), said on Saturday that the cables reflected the perceptions of the authors and were “not expressions of the Holy See itself”.

The cable said the Vatican’s “lack of information sharing” between its offices could be blamed for the bad handling of the pope’s 2006 Regensburg speech, which Muslims saw as equating Islam with violence, and the reinstating of a Holocaust-denying bishop.
Jews and many others were outraged in 2009 when the pope lifted the excommunication of traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson. The Vatican claimed it did not know that he had denied the full extent of the Holocaust.

A cable dated February 26, 2010 shows the Vatican balked at cooperating with investigators over sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland. It said the Vatican had been offended and angered by requests from Irish investigators who wanted to talk to them.