Vatican's Parolin discusses Guantánamo prison with John Kerry

by Joshua J. McElwee

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The Vatican's secretary of state discussed the issue of the continued functioning of the U.S. military's infamous detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Monday, the Vatican said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Kerry discussed "the commitment of the United States to close the Guantanamo prison and the desire for a favorable attention of the Holy See in search of adequate humanitarian solutions to the current detainees," said Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Kerry met Parolin at the Vatican Monday during a trip the U.S. minister is making to Rome primarily to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lombardi briefed reporters after the Vatican meeting, which the spokesman said lasted about an hour.

Other topics included in the ministers' discussions, said Lombardi, were the general situation in the Middle East, talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, the continuing crisis in Ukraine, and the Ebola epidemic.

Lombardi did not expand on the contents of their discussions, saying he could only provide the topics that were discussed.

The U.S. bishops have repeatedly called for closure of the Guantánamo detention center, saying the widely reported uses of torture at the base violate church teaching.

Latest opposition from the bishops to the base came in a Dec. 9 letter from the chair of the U.S. bishops' committee on international justice and peace, Las Cruces, N.M., Bishop Oscar Cantú, to the State Department's special envoy for Guantánamo closure.

"For many years, we have urged the closing of Guantanamo because it has become a symbol of violations of basic human rights as detainees have been abused and held in indefinite detention without trial," Cantú told the envoy, Clifford Sloan.

"As you are aware, the Catholic Church has long registered its absolute opposition to torture, calling it an 'intrinsic evil,'" Cantú continued, saying the bishops supported efforts to expedite transfer of the center's detainees to other facilities worldwide.

Kerry arrived in Rome Sunday and met that evening with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Kerry is to meet with Netanyahu later Monday, partly to address Palestinian plans to put a resolution before the U.N. Security Council outlining an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Netanyahu has said he strongly opposes the Palestinian resolution, which calls for Israeli retreat from lands sought for a formal Palestinian state.

Kerry is to travel later Monday to Paris and then London to continue talks on the subject.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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