The British ambassador to the Vatican feared a backlash against Catholics in the UK after the Pope encouraged Anglicans to convert over the issue of female priests, according to the latest US embassy cables revealed by WikiLeaks.
The wires, published by the Guardian, include comments made by Francis Campbell, the British ambassador to the Holy See, who said, “Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the Pope’s decision.”
His comments came after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams was a guest of honour at a dinner with Vatican officials.
The cable from US ambassador Miguel Diaz said Mr Campbell believed Pope Benedict XVI had put the Archbishop in an “impossible position”.
It added, “The Vatican decision seems to have been aimed primarily at Anglicans in the US and Australia, with little thought given to how it would affect the centre of Anglicanism, England, or the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
“Benedict XVI, Campbell said, had put Williams in an impossible situation. If Williams reacted more forcefully, he would destroy decades of work on ecumenical dialogue; by not reacting more harshly, he has lost support among angry Anglicans.”
“The crisis is also worrisome for England’s small, mostly Irish-origin, Catholic minority, Campbell said. There is still latent anti-Catholicism in some parts of England and it may not take much to set it off.”
“The outcome could be discrimination or in isolated cases, even violence, against this minority.”
The cables, which date back to November 2009, also reveal Dr Williams had “challenged” the Catholic Church’s position over the ordination of women before the Pope had urged disaffected Anglicans to convert.
Dr Williams’ visit to Rome was “cast as positive”, according to the cables, but said “it’s clear the wounds from this controversy will affect that dialogue negatively”.
The latest dispatches from the WikiLeaks cache also suggested the Irish government “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty” during investigations into child abuse by the clergy.
A cable dated February this year stated: “While Vatican contacts immediately expressed deep sympathy for the victims and insisted that the first priority was preventing a recurrence, they also were angered by how the situation played out politically.”
The leaks are the latest in a string of releases organised by the whistle-blowing website.
The site’s founder Julian Assange is awaiting an extradition hearing over rape allegations and could also face extradition to the US for allegations of espionage.
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told Australian radio station AM: “We do consider that extradition to Sweden will simply be a precursor to extradition to the US.
“Again we are yet to see a sensible analysis of what provisions of law under US law he has in fact breached. And we would consider any prosecution of the Espionage Act unconstitutional as a matter of the first amendment.”
“But of course it’s a matter for concern and there are rumours already that an indictment has been put before a grand jury in the US.”
She also said Assange denied instructing hackers to attack the websites of Mastercard and Visa after both sites were down for several hours.
A US data security company claimed WikiLeaks supporters were downloading spam-shooting software in their tens of thousands, sparking fears of an attack on other global web-based firms like Amazon or PayPal.
WikiLeaks refused to associate itself with the hacker group Anonymous, who claimed to be behind the attack on Mastercard, saying, “we neither condemn nor applaud these attacks.”
A statement from Anonymous indicated an attack on a major retailer would not go ahead, saying, “Attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste.” (Source: PA)