(Photo: Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica at left and the square Apostolic Palace — home of the pope and many Vatican offices — to the right and the long Vatican museum in the background, April 6, 2005/stringer)
The Vatican may be the world’s smallest state but even its diplomatic soul has been laid bare by WikiLeaks cables covering everything from sex abuse and media blunders to old “technophobic” cardinals. Cables sent from the U.S. embassy to the Vatican to the State Department depict Pope Benedict as sometimes isolated as aides try to protect him from bad news, and say his number two is seen as a “yes man” with little credibility among diplomats.
The cables were published by the Guardian newspaper, one of several news organizations with have been given access to the leaked cables from U.S. embassies around the world.
A long cable in February 2009, though couched in diplomatic language, reads like a scathing criticism of the Vatican’s internal and external communications structures, which are held responsible for some of Pope Benedict’s biggest public mishaps. “The Holy See’s communications operation is suffering from ‘muddled messaging’ partly as a result of cardinals’ technophobia and ignorance about 21st century communications. Only one senior papal advisor has a Blackberry and few have e-mail accounts. It has led to PR blunders on issues as sensitive as the Holocaust,” a U.S. diplomat writes.
The cable calls the pope’s inner circle of advisers old “Italo-centric” men uncomfortable with information technology and the “rough and tumble of media communications.”
“There is also the question of who, if anyone, brings dissenting views to the pope’s attention,” it says.