Pompeo to visit Japan, Mongolia, S.Korea

Saturday, 03 Oct, 2020

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.

"If we don't do this, if the world doesn't do this, there will be more conflict in the world, there will be more violence and more killing in the world", he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Vatican counterparts discussed their "respective positions" on relations with China in a "respectful, relaxed and cordial atmosphere", the Vatican said today.

A symposium hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See - with representatives from the U.S. government and top Vatican officials - highlighted the different approaches to the shared priority of promoting and defending religious freedom.

Officially the Vatican said Pope Francis had declined a request from Pompeo for an audience, as the pope avoids meeting politicians ahead of elections.

Pompeo previously met with Pope Francis on October 3, 2019.

Later, he announced to the media a diplomatic version about the inexpediency of a meeting between the Pope and the US Secretary of State - supposedly the pontiff should not get too involved in the American elections.

But he has not been to the region since June 2019, when he joined Trump at a Group of 20 summit in Japan and a stop in South Korea that included an impromptu meeting with Kim in the Demilitarized Zone.

President Donald Trump has campaigned on his hard line towards China ahead of the November 3 election.

The agreement's details are not public, but the pope says it gives the Vatican a say in the appointment of bishops in China.

The Vatican wants to extend the China accord, which was signed in 2018 and envisages a process of dialogue in the selection of bishops.

Holy See officials see it as progress after decades in which Chinese Catholics were driven underground. Asked by a reporter whether he thought Pompeo was seeking to exploit the Vatican for political purposes, Archbishop Gallagher said, "Well, that's one of the reasons that the Holy Father is not receiving the secretary of state".

The comments came after Pompeo this month criticized the Vatican for renewing an agreement with China over how the Roman Catholic Church can operate there.

His article greatly irritated the Vatican, which saw it as interference in the church's internal affairs for the sake of scoring domestic political points.

The Vatican secretary of state, Parolin, said the Holy See was "surprised" by Pompeo's article.

The Donald Trump administration has failed in its bid to try and influence the Vatican's dealings with China, with one of Pope Francis' most senior advisers accusing the United States of trying to exploit the pontiff.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now touring Europe. Pompeo is in Italy as part of his six-day trip to Southern Europe.