A top Vatican official has hit out at the Trump administration, accusing US politicians of exploiting Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. It followed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flying over to Italy to speak about religious freedom, as well as attacking the Vatican for its links to China. Pope Francis has frequently hit out at party politics, and has recently called for world leaders to put aside differences to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher told Italian news agency Ansa the Pope would refuse to meet with Mr Pompeo after his speech in Italy.
Archbishop Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for state relations, made the comments after being asked whether Mr Pompeo’s conference attempted to exploit the Pope ahead of the US election.
He responded: “Yes, that is precisely why the pope will not meet American secretary of state Mike Pompeo.”
Pope Francis is said to have declined to meet with Mr Pompeo because of the impending election, and did not want to appear biased.
But Mr Pompeo has also angered Vatican officials by claiming the country is soft on China’s human rights violations.
The US official has attacked the Vatican’s two-year deal with China where the two counters jointly appoint Chinese bishops, which is set to be renewed next month.
Ahead of Mr Pompeo’s scrapped meeting with the Pope, he said in an article for First Things: “What the church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the party and its totalitarian program.”
Mr Pompeo also took to Twitter to say the CCP’s “abuse of the faithful has only gotten worse” since they signed the Vatican deal, referencing China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Pope Francis has frequently called out party politics, and promoted cooperations between faiths and beliefs.
In April, he urged leaders to put aside their differences to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Let us pray today for men and women who have a political vocation. Politics is a high form of charity.”
The Pope also prayed for political parties “so that in this moment of pandemic they seek together the good of the country and not the good of their party.”
Pope Francis most recently visited the US and Cuba in 2015, meeting with then-President Barack Obama.
The historic visit saw the Pope in America for the first time to meet with leaders and US bishops.
He made a powerful speech in Philadelphia during the visit, calling on Catholics to respect religious freedoms.
On returning to Rome, the Pope hailed “the warmth of the people” in America, and called them “so loving”.