Secret US diplomatic cables released by the whistleblower website 'Wikileaks' have revealed that Pope Benedict XVI is responsible for the Vatican's growing hostility towards Turkey, the Muslim state, joining the European Union (EU).
The Guardian quoted the cables as saying that in 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was the leading voice behind the Holy See's unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe's "Christian roots" in the EU constitution.
The cables also said Ratzinger "clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe's Christian foundations".
In 2004, after the pope spoke out against letting a Muslim state join the EU, Vatican's acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger's comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position, the paper said.
However by 2006, Parolin was working for Ratzinger, and said: "Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey's EU membership. Rather, the Holy See has been consistently open to accession, emphasising only that Turkey needs to fulfil the EU's Copenhagen criteria to take its place in Europe," he added.
The cables further revealed that the American government had lobbied within Rome and Ankara for Turkish EU membership.
"We hope a senior department official can visit the Holy See and encourage them to do more to push a positive message on Turkey and integration," the 2006 cable said.
However by 2009, the American ambassador briefed ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit, said: "the Holy See's position now is that as a non-EU member the Vatican has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey's membership. The Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of membership with the EU."