Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been denied an audience with Pope Francis, with the Vatican accusing the United States’ top diplomat of trying to drag the Catholic Church into his country’s presidential race by asking the church to denounce China’s religious freedoms violations.
The Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the pope declined the request because he avoids meeting politicians ahead of elections, according to Reuters.
“Yes, he asked,” Parolin said. “But the pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods.”
Pompeo met Thursday with Parolin and Gallagher for about 45 minutes to discuss their differences.
Pompeo and others, including conservatives, have been critical of the church’s agreement with China over the appointment of bishops. The two-year-old agreement, which gives the pope some say over the appointment of Chinese bishops, is due to expire next month but is expected to be renewed.
Parolin also said that the Vatican-China deal “has nothing to do with American politics. This is a matter between churches and should not be used for this type of ends.”
President Trump has used his concerns about China – including Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus and its crackdown on democratric and religious freedoms – as part of his reelection platform.
“That’s just crazy,” Pompeo said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he was “picking a fight” with the Vatican over China and what impact that could have on Catholic and other Christian voters, the wire service also reported.