U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to advocate for persecuted religious minorities in China while calling on the Vatican to reconsider renewing a deal with Beijing.
"Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than it is inside of China today," Pompeo said Wednesday in Rome, Italy. "Nor of course have Catholics been spared this wave of repression."
Pompeo's latest remarks come as the Vatican and China are negotiating to renew a controversial 2018 agreement on the nomination of bishops. The terms of that deal have not been publicly revealed.
While admitting nation-states' efforts to protect religious freedom are "constrained by the realities of world politics," Pompeo made a subtle appeal to the Vatican to reverse the planned renewal underway.
"The Church is in a different position. Earthly considerations shouldn't discourage principled stances based on eternal truths."
Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted a symposium on "Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom through Diplomacy." Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher also participated.
A senior State Department official confirmed the top U.S. diplomat is not scheduled to have an audience with Pope Francis during this visit.
Pompeo met with the pontiff last October.
The Pope's office reportedly told American diplomats he would not personally receive Pompeo due to concerns of being seen as influencing the November U.S. election.
The U.S. secretary of state also met Wednesday with the Italian foreign minister.