Pompeo discussed relations with China in the Vatican and the crisis in the Caucasus

As announced in advance, no meeting between Pompeo and Pope Francis was planned because the Pontiff, for official reasons, does not accept politicians in the run-up to the elections.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who paid a visit to Rome, discussed with the Vatican Secretary of State (Head of Government) Cardinal Pietro Parolin the parties’ positions on relations with China. As Matteo Bruni, Head of the Holy See Press Service, said on Thursday, “the conversation took place in an atmosphere of mutual respect and lasted 45 minutes”.

“We also discussed the situation in conflict zones, especially the Caucasus and the Middle East, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean”, –  Bruni added.

As announced in advance, Pompeo’s meeting with Pope Francis was not planned because the Pope, for official reasons, does not accept politicians in the run-up to the elections. However, on the eve of the visit of the head of American diplomacy, there was some tension between Washington and the Holy See precisely because of Pompeo’s remarks about the Vatican’s intention to extend the agreement signed with China two years ago on the appointment of bishops. The Secretary of State, speaking at a symposium on religious freedom organised by the US Embassy to the Holy See, repeated the accusations against Beijing that it was infringing on human rights, including those of Catholics.

Vatican Secretary for State Relations Paul Richard Gallagher, who also attended a meeting between Pompeo and Parolin, the day before accused the Donald Trump administration of attempting to use the Pope. As an informed source at the Vatican told TASS, it is not just a matter of trying to organise a meeting, but of using the very topic of religious freedom and human rights through pressure on the Vatican in the run-up to the presidential election. “It is known that conservative Catholics vote for Trump, and many of them do not support the course of the current Latino Pope,” said the source.

As La Repubblica noted on Thursday, a block of American cardinals at a conclave in 2013 tried to prevent the election of the current Pope, who for his “socialist” views does not like the American economic lobby.

Cardinal Parolin pointed out that Pompeo’s statements on China in his First Things magazine article “surprised” the Vatican. According to the Vatican hierarch, such issues should be discussed in “suitable conditions and places”, especially when the American side “knows very well the course of the Holy See” in its relations with China. The Vatican has repeatedly said that it intends to continue its cooperation with Beijing, including extending the agreement on the appointment of bishops.