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Pope Francis denies visit request from Pompeo amid China disagreement

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The Pope denied a request by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a meeting to discuss the Vatican’s refusal to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in advance of the expiration of the agreement between the Holy See and the CCP that gives the Pope limited ability to choose Catholic bishops in China.

The Vatican cited a policy under Pope Francis that refuses meetings before political elections—as in the case of the U.S. presidential election — as the reason for denying a request to meet with Pompeo.    

“Yes, he asked [for a meeting]. But the pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods. That is the reason,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told reporters according to Reuters.

Some in the Vatican said the Pompeo was simply trying to bash the Pope for his refusal to meet to help in the reelection of President Trump.

Pompeo for his part denied that domestic politics had anything to do with the request, calling the charges “crazy.” Instead, Pompeo said he wanted to urge the Pope to take a harder line with Chinese authorities who persecute religion in China, including Catholics.

“I know that the Catholic Church, the Vatican, the Holy See all care about these issues deeply,” Pompeo told Fox News in an interview. “We’ve urged them to take a stronger view, to express their moral witness against these depredations that are taking place there in China.”

Pope Francis has come under attack by Christians, including American Catholics, for not taking a strong stand against the Communists who are openly hostile to religious organizations, noting that persecution has actually intensified since the Vatican-China agreement was signed.

“After the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See in September 2018 paving the way for unifying the state-sanctioned and underground Catholic communities, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increasing persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses, and continuing to detain underground clergy,” reports Catholic news service Angelus.

Pompeo made his request as he held talks with the Vatican about efforts to support religious liberty with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

“We had a constructive discussion,” Pompeo said after the meeting according to the Associated Press. “We have a shared objective. The Chinese Communist Party is behaving in ways that are reminiscent of what’s only happened in centuries past in terms of human rights violations. We’ve watched them oppress not only Muslim Uighurs but Christians, Catholics, Falun Gong, people of all faiths.”

A State Department official who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press was quick to downplay the issue, saying that ultimately religious liberty was important to the Vatican no matter who was Pope.

“The Vatican’s playing the long game when it comes to human rights and religious liberty,” the official said.

“Tactical agreements and tactical differences will come and go,” the official continued. “But the broader strategic vision, the United States and the Vatican, are in lockstep and have been for four generations and will be for generations to come.”

PHOTO: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

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