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Condoleezza Rice's ill-treatment of John Paul II's

special envoy, Cardinal Pio Laghi [left], on the

eve of Iraq War, has won her Papal displeasure.



Corriere della Sera, Italy

Pope Won't Meet Condi;

Vatican Still Miffed Over

Treatment of Papal Envoy


"On the eve of the Iraq War on March 2, 2003, she treated the envoy of John Paul II with a coldness bordering on disrespect, after he was sent to Washington in a desperate attempt to avert military action. It's clear that this discourtesy has not been forgotten."


By Massimo Franco


Translated By Adrian Trevisan


September 19, 2007

Italy - Corriere della Sera - Original Article (Italian)


Behind the denied audience, a divergence over foreign policy

The Pope's "no" to a meeting with Rice

The American Secretary of State requested an encounter in August

The response to her request?: “Benedict XVI is on vacation”


Her last request arrived in the summer. In order to reinsert herself into the Middle East viper's nest, the Secretary of State of the United States, Condoleezza Rice, let it be known at the Vatican that she badly-needed to meet Benedict XVI. It would have been no bad thing to meet her Middle East counterparts after a Papal audience. She had hoped to fix a date at the beginning of August for a meeting at the Pope's summer residence of Castelgandolfo , just after his return from Lorenzago in the Dolomites [the Italian Alps]. She was told that the Pope was on vacation.


Then Rice insisted, but without luck: Vatican protocol was unshakeable. “The Pope is on vacation,” has continued to be the official answer. We know this: that Rice succeeded in discussing the Middle East and above all, Lebanon, in a telephone call with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone . In early August, The Holy See's number two was on a visit to America for the annual reunion of the Knights of Columbus in Nashville. The refused encounter between Benedict XVI and America's top diplomat seems to have taken on a meaning that perhaps goes beyond what the Vatican had intended.


It has been taken as confirmation of the differences of opinion over the Bush Administration's initiatives in the Middle East, and of continued friction in regard to Iraq and relations with Iran. The Holy See maintains that the United States is at risk of paying too little heed to guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities under Iraq's new constitution. And it has made this clear to the Iraqi government. Baghdad has responded by saying that the threat of violence against Christians is no greater than that of other minorities. This issue has also been addressed to the Americans. Their response is that the troops have yet to succeed in gaining full control of the area; and therefore they are having great difficulty protecting non-Muslims.


As far as Iran is concerned, one is aware that the Vatican detests the truculent and anti-Semitic tones of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But another preventive war is viewed as a disaster. However, relations between the USA and the Holy See remain quite good. There is a continuous exchange of news and analyses on the “hot zones,” although their strategies remain divergent.


But ethical issues continue to nag at the Catholic Church and the Bush Administration. The problem is that their foreign policies remain a source of controversy, and Rice is not seen as a desirable mediator.


When initial contacts began over the squelched Papal meeting, it was explained that it also came at Bush's urging. The June 9 meeting at the Vatican between Benedict XVI and the American President had gone well WATCH , and the Secretary of State hoped to follow in its wake. The reality is that granting Rice an audience on the lake at Castelgandolfo would have required a strong desire on the part of the Vatican, and none such desire exists. In August, the Pontiff strives to avoid talks with political actors, and with few exceptions. The notion that the Pope is on vacation is considered “a good excuse” for avoiding any meeting not seen as indispensable, even if it creates confusions and misunderstanding to global public opinion; and in this instance, the Middle East.


Officially no one will say it, but Rice's behavior in 2003 when she was Bush's National Security Advisor is also behind the “no.” On the eve of the conflict in Iraq, it was Rice who nastily replied that she couldn't understand the attitude of the Vatican, which was against the war; and then she treated the envoy of John Paul II, Cardinal Pio Laghi  with a coldness bordering on disrespect, after he was sent to Washington on March 2, 2003, in a desperate attempt to avert military action. It's clear that this discourtesy has not been forgotten.


























Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is regarded by the Vatican as an unsuitable Middle East mediator. The Holy See has never forgioven her for the ill-treatment she meted out to Pope John Paul's personal envoy on the eve of the Iraq War.

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