Pope Francis holds private meeting with Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State
Pope Francis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed on Thursday on the need to protect the rights of Christian minorities in the Middle East during a meeting at the Vatican, the U.S. State Department said. A day earlier on Wednesday, Pompeo spoke at the symposium, where he focused on areas of collaboration between the U.S. and the Vatican including the causes of advancing religious freedom and fighting against human trafficking
The U.S. Secretary of State met the pope for about a half an hour. The Vatican did not issue a statement on the contents of the meeting. It usually does so only when the pope meets heads of state.
“They reaffirmed the United States and Holy See commitment to advancing religious freedom around the world, and in particular, protecting Christian communities in the Middle East,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Ancient Christian communities face persecution or harassment in some Middle Eastern countries, and many Christians have left to build new lives in the West.
Mike Pompeo, the first Italian-American secretary of state, has been accompanied on his trip to Italy by his wife Susan, is due to make brief stops in Montenegro and North Macedonia on Friday before flying on to Athens. It was Pompeo’s first visit to his grandfather’s home town.
A day earlier on Wednesday at the Vatican, the United States Secretary of State gave a talk at a symposium co-hosted by the Vatican and the United States Embassy to the Holy See called “Pathways to Achieving Human Dignity: Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations.” Pompeo denounced authoritarian regimes and autocrats naming a few of them, like Cuba or Iran, as the roots of religious repression, because they fail to acknowledge a power higher than their own.
“When the state rules absolutely, God becomes an absolute threat to authority. That’s why Cuba canceled National Catholic Youth Day back in August,” Pompeo said. “When the state rules absolutely, human dignity is trampled, not cherished.
“When the state rules absolutely, moral norms are crushed completely. That’s why the Islamic Republic of Iran has jailed, tortured, and killed thousands of its own citizens for forty years. When the state rules absolutely, it demands its citizens worship government, not God.”
“Freedom of religion can also be threatened when an intolerant majority rules. That’s how the Burmese security forces have been able to drive hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims out of their homes, in the most violent and brutal ways,” he also said.