Papal view: While the Irish and British governments clashed over the Falklands war, the Vatican played a much more careful diplomatic game, in which Pope John Paul II pushed for a peaceful solution to the conflict but saw it in the context of the broader international challenges posed by the cold war.
The Vatican involvement is revealed in the British state papers for 1982.
April, Terry Waite, personal representative of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, was sent to Rome to deliver a note to the pope condemning
the Argentine invasion.
British officials worked closely with
Archbishop Heim, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the UK, to make sure
their case was made to the Vatican and that the papacy would at least
remain neutral in the dispute.
Heim was credited with removing a
reference to the “Malvinas” – the Argentine name for the islands – from
the pope’s speech on the subject.
The Vatican suggested it was
“working hard” on Argentina’s leader Gen Galtieri to desist from
aggression, but warned it might “contemplate certain politico/econ- omic
sanctions should there be a risk that the conflict be extended by the
stubbornness of the parties involved”.
John Paul II visited London on May 28th, Cardinal Casaroli, his
cardinal secretary of state, visited Downing Street where he and
Thatcher had a frank discussion about the conflict.
conveyed his respect for the “problem for Britain of finding a way out
of the situation”, but indicated that the pope “was deeply concerned
that the outcome of the crisis could be the psychological, political and
military separation of the whole of Latin America from the western
He feared the Soviet Union would take advantage of the situation to create a gap between Latin America and the West.”
Thatcher replied that she had tried diplomacy but Britain had been “the victims of aggression” in this instance.