ROME – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not having a very good Roman holiday. On Wednesday morning, his more than 30 cars rolled through the cobblestone streets of the unusually sad and cloudy Italian capital for his second visit in a year. But rather than receiving a hero’s welcome, as he did last time – complete with a private audience with Pope Francis and a visit to his ancestral home outside Rome, he was accused of attempting to exploit the pope on his own. of President Trump.
The trilateral between the United States, Italy and the Holy See should have been a pre-election opportunity to demonstrate that the United States̵
Pompeo, on the other hand, was the protagonist of an event called “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom through Diplomacy”, organized by the US Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich in a socially distant conference room at the elegant Excelsior Hotel in Via Veneto near the US embassy. Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, gave a speech after Pompeo, but the most he could give as a papal blessing was to say: “Your holiness is aware of this meeting.”
When pressed earlier in the week as to why the pope was apparently snubbing Pompey after welcoming him so warmly just a year ago, the Vatican press office said the pope doesn’t like holding hearings with high-ranking government officials so close to important elections. Immediately after speaking, the ANSA news agency asked Gallagher to confirm whether the reason “was an exploitation of the pope in the final stages of the American presidential campaign”. Gallagher replied in the affirmative: “Yes, it is precisely for this reason that the pope will not meet the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”
The pope was also said shocked by Pompeo’s comments regarding the Holy See’s growing warmth with China and the renewal of a 2018 agreement that aims to bring Chinese Catholics into the fold by legitimizing the Chinese Catholic Church sent from Beijing.
Pompeo wasted no time on Gingrich’s stage calling for such a move. “Nowhere is religious freedom under attack more than it is within China today,” Pompeo said. “As with all Communist regimes, the Communist Party of China considers itself the ultimate moral authority.”
Pompeo reportedly angered the pontiff earlier this month by lobbying the Vatican to abandon the deal in the conservative Catholic magazine. First things. “The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, particularly those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes such as that of Beijing,” he wrote. “What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be firmly and persistently convinced by the Vatican in the face of the relentless efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to bend all religious communities to the will of the party and its totalitarian program.”
The Chinese Catholic Church has been a priority for Francis since his election in 2013 and it would appear that no pressure from abroad will have any impact on the pope’s desire to give Chinese Catholics the opportunity to be blessed by the Vatican.
Pompeo’s Roman itinerary also includes meetings with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, a member of the Five Star Movement, who has just asked for the isolation of many of their parliamentarians after a small COVID cluster appeared having spread among the party members. He will also have a private tour of the Borghese Gallery before being hosted in the ambassador’s residence for a small but glitzy dinner on Wednesday night. Pompeo will visit a Catholic charity that cares for Syrian refugees on Thursday and will meet in private with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, where relations with China will be at the top of the agenda.