US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Vatican officials, but not Pope Francis

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived at the Vatican on Thursday to meet with senior officials from the Holy See, a day after tensions over US opposition to Chinese Vatican policies spread in public.Pompeo met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. The Vatican has declined a request to see Pope Francis, citing the Holy See’s policy of not granting papal audiences during election campaigns, Parolin said.

Pompeo was in Rome to participate in a conference on religious freedom organized by the United States Embassy to the Holy See and to meet with Italian and Vatican officials.

At Wednesday’s conference, Pompeo urged the Vatican to join the United States in exposing violations of religious freedom in China, as part of the US campaign to criticize Beijing’s crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities which escalated amid the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of the November 3 election. .

The conference was held as the Vatican entered delicate negotiations with Beijing over the extension of its controversial 2018 deal on the appointment of bishops for China.

The Vatican is seeking to extend the agreement, which contemplates a process of dialogue in the selection of bishops. He signed it in 2018 in the hope that it would help unite Chinese Catholics, who for seven decades have been divided between those belonging to an official, state-sanctioned church and an underground church loyal to Rome.

Pompeo denies the electoral motive

Pompeo sharply criticized the deal, writing an essay earlier this month suggesting the Vatican had compromised its moral authority by signing it. His article greatly angered the Vatican, which saw it as an interference in the internal affairs of the Church to score points of internal politics.

Vatican Secretary of State Parolin said the Holy See was “surprised” by Pompeo’s article.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the conference, Parolin said the private meetings Pompeo had scheduled at the Vatican would have been the most appropriate venue to voice his concerns, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

US President Donald Trump campaigned hard on China ahead of the November 3 election. He is also strongly associated with conservative Protestant and Catholic movements, many of which have criticized Pope Francis.

When asked at a briefing on Wednesday if he was “fighting” with the Vatican over China and what impact it might have on Catholics and other Christian voters, Pompeo replied: “It’s just crazy”.

Trump’s recent Supreme Court candidate, Amy Coney Barrett, graduated from Notre Dame University’s Catholic Stronghold Law School.

Barrett has had a decades-long affiliation with the People of Praise, founded in 1971 and rooted in charismatic Catholicism, a movement that grew out of the influence of Pentecostalism, which emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus and may include baptism in the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues.

The 22 branches of the group organize and meet outside the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church and include people from several Christian denominations, although the majority of its approximately 1,800 adult members remain Catholics.

For his part, Pompeo is a deacon in an evangelical Presbyterian church in Kansas.

Pompeo started his day Thursday by visiting the Rome-based Sant’Egidio community, a Catholic charity active in caring for refugees in Italy and providing HIV-AIDS care in Africa.

Arrived at the headquarters of Sant’Egidio, Pompeo hailed the group’s efforts as “the work of the Lord”.

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