By Claudia Torres
The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is holding a symposium in Rome on “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy,” highlighting the mutual commitment of the United States and the Vatican to fight for basic human rights around the globe.
To that end, controversy is mounting over the Holy See’s intention to renew a two-year provisional agreement with China regarding the nomination of bishops. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opposes the extension, and criticized China several times during the conference.
“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than it is inside of China today,” Pompeo said. “That’s because, as with all communist regimes, the Chinese Communist Party deems itself the ultimate moral authority.”
He added that, “an increasingly repressive CCP, frightened by its own lack of democratic legitimacy, works day and night to snuff out the lamp of freedom, especially religious freedom, on a horrifying scale.”
Following the symposium, Pompeo’s comments prompted Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to respond to questions regarding the Holy See’s agreement with China, saying the Vatican prefers a politics of “small steps.”
“We believe that every result — even if it isn’t striking, even if it isn’t eye-catching, even if, at first, perhaps it seems to not yield big results — is however, a step forward, toward the affirmation also of greater religious freedom,” Cardinal Pietro says.
The Vatican continues to defend its position on China, though many Catholics are concerned that the agreement could make things worse for the faithful in the communist country.
And though Pompeo did not meet with Pope Francis, the symposium underlines the United States and the Holy See’s common goal to defend religious freedom.