The Vatican denied US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request for an audience with Pope Francis this week, saying the pope would not see Pompeo in the midst of the American presidential campaign.
“Yes, he asked,” Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told The Associated Press as Pompeo is in Europe for a weeklong visit. “But the pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods. That is the reason.”
Pompeo will still meet with Parolin and other top Vatican officials during the visit, but the pope’s rebuff was seen by some as the latest example of a political rift between the United States and the Vatican. During a religious freedom conference this week, Pompeo issued a strong denouncement of a deal the Catholic Church signed two years ago with China related to the appointment of bishops, which it is considering extending.
Donald Trump has taken a hard line against China, as has Pompeo, in the leadup to the U.S. election in November. The secretary of state has also taken unusual efforts to use his political authority to promote religious freedom.
“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than in China,” Pompeo said at the event Wednesday. He later added that Beijing’s Community Party was working “day and night to snuff out the lamp of freedom, especially religious freedom, on a horrifying scale.”
Pompeo rejected claims that he was using his visit to the Vatican to drum up support for Trump ahead of the election, telling The New York Times the assertion was “just crazy.”
“We’ve been working on human rights in China the entire time I’ve been part of this administration,” he told the newspaper.
Reuters notes that Parolin and Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher said they were “surprised” at Pompeo’s public statements, saying he had violated “one of the rules of diplomacy.”
“Normally when you’re preparing these visits between high-level officials, you negotiate the...