The Vatican was committed to getting countries aligned with the Copenhagen Accord on climate change, according to the first Vatican cable to appear on the WikiLeaks website.
The confidential cable claimed a Vatican official at the Secretariat of State would support US government “efforts to have countries associate themselves with the Copenhagen Accord by the January 31 deadline” as well as “encourage other countries discreetly to associate themselves with the Accord as opportunities arise”.
The cable, dated January 21, 2010, came from the US Embassy to the Vatican and was sent to the US government’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science.
It was one of more than 250,000 alleged diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks said it would be releasing over the coming months. Sources in Rome said 850 documents concern communications between the US State Department and the US Embassy to the Vatican.
The cable, entitled “‘Green’ Pope supports US path forward from Copenhagen”, was based in part on discussions an embassy official had with Paolo Conversi, a Vatican official at the Secretariat of State, and with US Mgr James Reinert of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The one-page document made no mention of Pope Benedict XVI’s January 11 speech to diplomats in which he was critical of the lack of real commitment to mitigating climate change.
In a lengthy speech, he told ambassadors that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, including US Ambassador to the Vatican Miguel Diaz, that he shared “the growing concern caused by economic and political resistance to combating the degradation of the environment”.
He said the problem was evident during the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. The UN Copenhagen conference ended with an agreement on some objectives but failed to reach a comprehensive, binding accord on reducing global emissions.
The Pope said he hoped that follow-up conferences in 2010 would lead to effective international policies for protecting the environment because “the very future of some nations is at stake, particularly some island states”.
The cable simply mentioned that Mr Conversi “was pleased overall with the process leading to Copenhagen and with the conference itself. He said expectations were too high before the event”, according to the cable.
When contacted by CNS, Mr Conversi said he had not yet read the cable and could offer no comment about its accuracy.
The cable reported that Mr Conversi said the Vatican was “sympathetic” to complaints of countries such as Venezuela and Cuba about not being included in the decision-making process, “but believed their criticism was largely politically motivated”.
According to the cable, a US embassy official held a separate meeting on climate change with Mgr Reinert, who reportedly confirmed the idea that “the profile of environmental issues in the Vatican is at an all-time high”.
This was demonstrated by the fact that Vatican officials from the Secretariat of State were now representing the Vatican at international environmental meetings whereas in the past lower level officers from the justice and peace council “would have had the lead”, the cable said.
A final comment by the cable’s author said: “Mr Conversi’s offer to support the US, even if discreetly, is significant because the Vatican is often reluctant to appear to compromise its independence and moral authority by associating itself with particular lobbying efforts.”
“Even more important than the Vatican’s lobbying assistance, however, is the influence the Pope’s guidance can have on public opinion in countries with large Catholic majorities and beyond,” it said.
In response to a request for comment, an embassy representative, Nancy McNally, issued the following statement: “While I cannot speak to the authenticity of any documents provided to the press, I can say that the United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information.”