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 June 28, 2017

The Italian daily La Stampa has published excerpts of memos from the US embassy at the Vatican to the Obama administration, offering insights on the policies and personality of Pope Francis.

In a message to Vice President Joseph Biden, shortly after the new Pope’s election, the embassy reported that “officials of the Curia are curious and nervous” about the new Pontiff. The message said that Pope Francis would not change Church doctrine—mentioning in particular the Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality—but would be “sufficiently open to dialogue” so that the topics could be discussed.

In the same early message, the American embassy pointed out that a potential conflict between the Vatican and the US could arise because of the rising influence of Evangelical Protestant groups, funded by American donors, in traditionally Catholic countries of Latin America. That activity, the embassy warned, is “fueling the suspicion that American Protestants are still seeking to undermine Catholicism.”

A year later, as President Obama prepared for a meeting with the Pope, the embassy offered this assessment of the Pope’s priorities:

Despite the many revolutionary acts of Francis, he is not trying to change the doctrine of Church. Instead, he is moving the dialogue from the hot social topics to the more practical issues of pastoral nature. He is clarifying that cultural issues have obscured the most fundamental role of the Church in the care of poor, sick and needy.