Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA1543 2005-04-04 05:51 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Strong reaction to death of Pope John Paul II

¶1. (U) Summary: The Philippines has reacted with deep
sorrow to news of the death of Pope John Paul II. President
Arroyo announced an official mourning period that will last
until the Pope’s funeral, which she plans to attend. The
Catholic Church will hold a requiem mass in honor of Pope
John Paul II on April 6 in Manila. Cardinal Vidal is
eligible to serve as an elector in the upcoming Conclave, as
is Cardinal Sin, but the latter is ill and may not be able
to travel. National leaders, including prominent Muslim and
Protestant clerics, have expressed their condolences, as
have the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF). Filipino Catholics felt a very
special bond with Pope John Paul II and he will be genuinely
missed. End Summary.

Sorrow in the Philippines

¶2. (U) The Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic
country, reacted with deep sorrow to news of the death of
Pope John Paul II. (Note: Of the country’s 86 million
people, an estimated 83 percent are Catholic. End note)
Millions of Filipinos expressed their grief publicly at
crowded masses nationwide after news of the Pope’s death
spread early on April 3. Media outlets blanketed television
with news of the Pope’s death throughout the day on April 3
and into April 4.

¶3. (U) President Arroyo announced a period of national
mourning that will last until the Pope’s funeral, and
ordered that flags at government sites fly at half-staff.
In a public statement, Arroyo remarked that Pope John Paul
II “was a holy champion of the Filipino family and of
Christian values,” that he had visited the Philippines
twice, and that she had met him three times. Malacanang
Palace contacts confirmed press reports that Arroyo, a Roman
Catholic who attends mass every day, and husband Mike Arroyo
would attend the funeral, departing on April 5 or 6,
depending on the date of the funeral. Her advance team was
due to depart Manila on April 4.

Catholic Church Reaction

¶4. (U) The Catholic Church in the Philippines plans to hold
a special requiem mass in honor of Pope John Paul II on
April 6 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, also
known as the Manila Cathedral, in downtown Manila. A large
mass presided over by Archbishop Rosales of Manila and
attended by President Arroyo, former Presidents Corazon
Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos, and other Filipino notables
already took place late on April 3. As leader of the most
populous diocese in the country, Archbishop Rosales issued a
statement urging Filipinos to join others in the
international community in their sorrow, stating that the
Pope had given “himself completely to God. As Filipinos, we
especially recall the times he was physically present with
us, being amongst us and blessing us.” A group of priests
plans to plant 84 seedlings at a Manila park to be named
after Pope John Paul II to mark his age at the time of his

¶5. (SBU) On a conversation with Dep Pol/C on April 4,
Monsignor Hernando Coronel, the General Secretary of the
Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said
that Vatican-based Cardinal Ratzinger had already been in
touch with the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila about funeral
arrangements and other issues. According to Msgr. Coronel,
Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (74) is eligible to serve as an
elector in the upcoming Conclave, as is Jaime Cardinal Sin
(76), although the latter is ill and may not be able to
travel. (Note: Vidal is not that well himself — he
recently had a heart-related medical procedure. Sin, the
former Archbishop of Manila who spoke out forcefully against
the Marcos dictatorship, is in a wheelchair, has serious
heart problems, and is undergoing regular dialysis. End
note) Jose Tomas Cardinal Sanchez (85), who resides in
Rome, is too old to serve as an elector. In a December 2004
meeting, Cardinal Vidal had told Dep Pol/C that he has deep
admiration for Francis Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, who has
been mentioned as a candidate for the papacy.

Other Reactions

¶6. (U) Scores of national leaders, including prominent
Muslim and Protestant clerics, expressed their condolences,
as did the NPA and the MILF. Some of their comments follow:

— Senate President Franklin Drilon marked the opening
ceremony of the 112th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary
Union (IPU) in Manila on April 3 by stating that Filipinos
would remember the Pope “for his fight for human dignity and
steadfast work in bringing peace to all nations;”

— Opposition Senator Edgardo Angara lauded the Pope’s fight
against child abuse and his opposition to the Marcos regime;

— Senate Minority leader Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr.
said the Pope’s life had had a tremendous impact and
highlighted the Pope’s proposal that debts of poor countries
be forgiven by creditors;

— Brother Eddie Villanueva, leader of the Evangelical
Protestant “Jesus Is Lord” movement and a 2004 presidential
candidate, thanked the Pope for supporting the “marginalized
and less privileged,” and predicted that the Pope’s death
would spur a renewed interest in Christianity throughout the

— Shariff Julabbi, a leader of the Ulama League (an
association of Muslim clerics in Mindanao), hailed the Pope
for serving as a “bridge of understanding” between the
world’s Christian and Muslim communities;

— Mohagher Iqbal, commenting on behalf of the MILF’s
Central Committee through its website, called the Pope “a
tireless campaigner of world peace and champion of religious

— NPA spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal sent the NPA’s
condolences to leading print media on April 3 via a cell
phone text message.


¶7. (SBU) Filipino Catholics felt a very special bond with
Pope John Paul II and he will be missed. His two visits to
the country met with wild enthusiasm and were also historic
— the first (in 1981) helped spur opposition to the Marcos
regime while the second (in 1995) attracted a crowd of four
or five million during a mass in Manila. Pope John Paul
II’s doctrinal views, conservative on moral and family
issues and socially liberal on economic issues, were popular
among the local Catholic clergy and most Filipino Catholics.
The Pope’s ecumenical efforts also had special resonance in
the Philippines, where the Church has reached out to Muslims
— who have long felt alienated from the Catholic majority –
– in an effort to promote national reconciliation.
Filipinos will watch the upcoming funeral and Conclave very
carefully for signals on where the Church — a very
important institution in the Philippines — might be headed



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