US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference in which he participated alongside Italy's foreign ministry. (The Associated Press)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Vatican on Wednesday to join the US in denouncing the violations of religious freedom in China and argued that the Catholic Church should take the lead in the fight for human rights. fundamental.
Pompeo spoke at a symposium on religious freedom organized by the US embassy to the Holy See, which took place as the Vatican entered difficult negotiations with Beijing to extend its controversial agreement on bishop appointments.
The Vatican Foreign Minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, was present and did not mention China in his presentation. Instead, he said that the imposition of gender ideology in Western countries violated religious freedom.
Pompeo echoed President Donald Trump's harsh criticism of Beijing, which has increased in tone as the Nov. 3 presidential election approaches. He said that nowhere on Earth is religious freedom under attack like in China.
“We must support those who demand freedom in our time,” Pompeo said. He cited Saint John Paul II, the retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis to ask for a greater commitment from religious leaders in defense of all believers.
“Being a church 'in a permanent state of mission' means many things,” Pompeo said, using a phrase from Francis. “Without a doubt one of them is to be a church in permanent defense of human rights.”
The Vatican has said in defense of its agreement with China that the appointment of bishops is a purely ecclesial matter, not a political or diplomatic one. Gallagher said the Holy See, in all its diplomatic dealings, “has stressed the importance of dialogue and mutual respect.”
Weeks ago, Pompeo published an essay in the right-wing magazine First Things in which he hinted that the Vatican compromised its moral authority by signing the 2018 agreement with Beijing.
Asked Wednesday about Pompeo's essay, Gallagher said the Holy See “received it critically.”
He said that the imminence of the US election is “one of the reasons why the Holy Father will not receive the secretary of state.”
Pompeo will meet with Gallagher and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Thursday.