Pope refuses audience with US Sec. of State Mike Pompeo

REUTERS

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A top Vatican official on Wednesday accused US President Donald Trump’s administration of using Pope Francis with an event staged during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Rome.

Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, answered in the affirmative when asked by ANSA if the US unilaterally organizing a symposium on religious freedom at its embassy to the Holy See amounted to exploitation of the pope in the final stages of the US presidential campaign.

“Yes, that is precisely why the pope will not meet American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” Gallagher said.

During his visit, Pompeo is set to have talks with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, but not Pope Francis.

Vatican sources had said it was felt a meeting with such a senior figure in Trump’s administration would be inappropriate so close to the elections.

Pompeo and Parolin are expected to discuss the Vatican’s relations with China, after the former accused the Holy See of being too soft on Beijing and was critical of the likelihood that a historic agreement with the Chinese authorities on the nomination of bishops will be renewed.

Pompeo called on “every faith leader to find the courage to confront religious persecution against their own communities, and those of other faiths” during a speech in Rome on Wednesday.