US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reignited a row with the Vatican on Wednesday during a visit to Rome, a month before the US election and on the heels of a diplomatic breach that experts see as an effort to win votes conservative Catholics.
Pompeo is not meeting with Pope Francis because the pontiff avoids such audiences during campaign times, a Vatican source said.
Analysts say the Pope has been angered by Pompeo’s public calls to end a landmark Vatican-China deal.
Instead, Pompeo spoke at a symposium hosted by the U.S. Embassy of the Holy See, where he renewed a call for the Vatican to take a stand against China, defending a theme of freedom. religious used in Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
“Nowhere is religious freedom more assaulted than in China,” said Pompeo, an evangelical Christian.
“I call on every religious leader to find the courage to face religious persecution,” he said, stressing that for the Catholic Church, “earthly considerations should not deter positions of principle” .
Pompeo launched the offensive earlier this month, calling the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement the appointment of bishops, which must be renewed, a risk to the Church’s “moral authority” given Beijing’s record in human rights.
Francis worked hard to reestablish ties with China and the Vatican did not appreciate Pompeo’s public interference.
“ Anti-François ” network
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, told reporters at the symposium that Pompeo’s statement this month had been “critically received.”
“Normally, when you prepare these visits between senior officials, you negotiate the agenda of what you are going to discuss in private, confidentially. It is one of the rules of diplomacy,” he said.
Pompeo will meet with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Thursday.
Powerful Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga said the US intervention was unwelcome and was clearly linked to the election campaign.
“They want Donald Trump elected, and it’s all based on that logic. In that sense, I don’t think they’re acting in the interests of Americans,” he said in an interview with the Repubblica daily on the day before Pompeo’s visit.
Francis’ openness to China had particularly angered the “anti-Francis” network close to the American president, he said, headed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican envoy to the United States, and Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser.
Massimo Faggioli, theologian at Villanova Catholic University in the United States, said a concerted effort was underway to “turn a certain anti-Francis and anti-Vatican sentiment, which has become more visible in recent years, into votes for Trump “.
“Vatican diplomacy is used for propaganda,” he said.
According to the Pew Research Center, about half of registered Catholic voters describe themselves as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party, while roughly the same identify or lean toward the Democratic Party.
A “notable majority of white Catholics” voted for Trump the last time, Faggioli said, and “the plan is to maintain this bloc of white Catholic voters in certain states where it is particularly needed.”
Pompeo is also due to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Wednesday to discuss U.S. efforts to deter European allies from using equipment from Chinese maker Huawei in developing their 5G networks.
The United States accuses Huawei of being a Chinese spy tool.
Italy insists its Golden Power law – which allows the government to impose conditions, restrictions or a ban on foreign investment in strategic industries – protects it from risk.
Nonetheless, Conte vowed last week to take stronger action to ensure national security in the country’s 5G networks.
Discussions will also likely focus on Italy’s participation in China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure investment plan.
Rome became the first G7 country to sign on to the plan last year, a move heavily criticized by those who fear the investment program could leak trade secrets and key technologies into Beijing’s hands.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)