Sep 152014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3202 2005-07-12 07:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003202



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015


¶B. MANILA 3167
¶C. MANILA 3163
¶D. MANILA 3161
¶E. MANILA 2815

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Several local press reports have claimed
that the Papal Nuncio “scolded” the Catholic bishops during
their recent conference, demanding that they not involve
themselves in politics by explicitly calling for President
Arroyo’s resignation. As reported, after much discussion,
the bishops decided not to demand her resignation. A Church
contact told us that the Papal Nuncio did advise the bishops
that they should stay clear of political entanglements per
Vatican policy, but did not “scold” them in any way. In
other news, the Catholic Bishops chose Archbishop Angel
Lagdameo to be their next president beginning January 1,
¶2006. Lagdameo will replace Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who
will stay in place until the end of the year. With the end
of the Cardinal Sin era, the Church seems to be moving away
from political activism towards more of a focus on pastoral
matters. End Summary.

A Vatican Hand?

¶2. (C) Several local press reports have claimed that the
Papal Nuncio “scolded” the Catholic bishops during their July
9-10 annual conference in Manila, demanding that they not
involve themselves in politics by explicitly calling for
President Arroyo’s resignation. (Note: As reported in
Reftels, after much discussion, the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines, “CBCP,” decided not to demand
her resignation, providing Arroyo a needed respite from
recent criticism. End Note.) Acting Pol/C spoke July 12
with Bishop Romulo de la Cruz, who attended the conference
and asked him about the claims. De la Cruz, who is the
bishop for Antique in the central Philippines, confirmed that
the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Antonio Franco, an Italian,
addressed the event on July 9, as he and his predecessors
have in the past. He said Franco had underscored to the
group that it had important matters to discuss and urged the
CBCP to be cautious, keeping in mind that it should refrain
from political activism per Vatican policy. At no point —
De la Cruz related — did Franco in any way “scold” the
bishops or refer in detail to Philippine domestic politics.

¶3. (C) In part because of the Papal Nuncio’s comments, De la
Cruz said the CBCP statement issued on July 10 noted that:
“We are not politicians who are to provide a political
blueprint to solve problems…With Pope Benedict XVI we do
not believe in the intrusion into politics on the part of the
hierarchy.” De la Cruz said the vast majority of the
bishop’s supported Franco’s remarks, though several
left-leaning bishops — who were urging that the group take
an anti-Arroyo stance — believed that Franco had
“interfered” in the deliberations.

Next Head of the CBCP

¶4. (C) Apart from its widely publicized July 10 statement,
the CBCP also elected Archbishop Angel Lagdameo to be its
next president. Lagdameo will take over the CBCP presidency
— which ranks along with the archbishop positions in Manila
and Cebu as among the most important positions in the Church
hierarchy — on January 1, 2006. Lagdameo has been vice
president of the CBCP since January 2004. Born in Quezon
Province, central Luzon, in 1940, Lagdameo served in Lucena
City, Dumaguete, and Cebu City prior to becoming Archbishop
of Jaro, Iloilo Province (central Philippines) in 2000.
Lagdameo is a friendly and thoughtful person. Conservative
on doctrinal issues, he is not a political activist.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma from Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur
Province (Mindanao), was elected vice president of the CBCP,
and will take over that position on January 1, 2006.

¶5. (SBU) Current CBCP President Archbishop Fernando Capalla
remains in this post until December 31, 2005, when his
two-year term ends. Capalla declined to run for another
term. The moderate, articulate Capalla will remain
Archbishop of Davao, Mindanao. He will also stay on as
co-chair of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), which
promotes inter-religious dialogue between Christians and
Muslims in Mindanao. According to observers, the BUC has
played a key role in helping reduce inter-religious tensions,
with Capalla serving in the forefront of those efforts.


¶6. (C) With the end of the Cardinal Sin era, the Church
seems to be moving towards more of a focus on pastoral
matters. Cardinal Sin, who retired from office in 2003 and
died on June 21 (ref E), was very much an activist in the
political sphere: he played a key role in the anti-Marcos
movement in the 1980s, endorsed and denounced candidates for
political office, made declarations on political issues, etc.
Although Sin was close to John Paul II, especially on
doctrinal matters, the Vatican was not fully comfortable with
his political activities, according to contacts. The Church
at this point seems to be in a phase of “Sin-fatigue” and —
based on its July 10 statement — seems very much open to
advice from the Vatican on the need to keep out of politics
in a direct way. Despite the apparent shift in the CBCP away
from political engagement per se, there is no indication of
any change in its views on social issues, such as artificial
methods of family planning and Philippine government
involvement in that area. In addition, if the political
situation deteriorates, the CBCP might take a more activist
stance in the future.

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