Why did Pope Francis refuse to meet Secretary Pompeo in Rome this week? The obvious answer is that he didn’t want to confront the diabolical consequences of renewing the Vatican’s 2018 deal with the Chinese Communist party. These go beyond the harassment of loyal Chinese Catholics who now find themselves forced by the Pope to recognize party stooges as their own bishops. We’ve never seen the text of the Vatican-Beijing pact, and we won’t be informed about the terms of its renewal, but it’s clear that somehow President Xi has also secured Francis’s silence on China’s genocidal campaign against the Uighurs.
Pompeo is beside himself with rage that the leader of a Church that condemns voluntary abortions chooses to say nothing about the the forced variety to which Uighur women are subjected by Han Chinese determined to ‘breed out’ these Untermenschen from the population. But, as Pompeo pointed out in a speech at a Vatican symposium this week, China’s assault on religious freedom is all-encompassing:
‘The Chinese Communist party has battered every religious community in China: Protestant house churches, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and more. Nor, of course, have Catholics been spared this wave of repression: Catholic churches and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed… Authorities order residents to replace pictures of Jesus with those of Chairman Mao and those of General Secretary Xi Jinping. All of these believers are the heirs of those Pope John Paul celebrated in his speech to the UN, those who had “taken the risk of freedom, asking to be given a place in social, political, and economic life which is commensurate with their dignity as free human beings”.’
Pope Francis’s moral compass is so skewed that we don’t know whether he realizes that he’s torn up John Paul’s legacy; my guess is that he doesn’t care. But clearly he didn’t want to be told face to face about a wave of religious persecution that bears comparison with those of Hitler, Stalin and that new saint of the Chinese ‘Catholic’ Church, Chairman Mao. He refuses to hear about it from one of his own cardinals, the heroic Joseph Zen, former Archbishop of Hong Kong, so naturally he wasn’t going to open his doors to the foreign minister of the country he most despises, the United States.
But there is another factor: the American presidential election. Francis is desperate to see the back of Trump. The Vatican spent a lot of money back in 2016 trying to secure the election of Hillary Clinton. Now it is effectively bankrupt, which is why it’s so keen to refresh its relationship with a dictatorship with money to burn. Refusing to meet Pompeo at least deprives the Trump administration of photo opportunity.
Would the Pope really think in such petty terms when the fate of millions of religious believers hangs in the balance? Vox, in a cack-handed attempt to defend the papal snub, has answered that question for us. It reports that Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the left-wing Liverpudlian who serves as the Vatican’s secretary for relations with state, told an Italian news agency on Wednesday that Francis didn’t want to help Trump’s reelection efforts and ‘that is precisely why the Pope will not meet American secretary of state Mike Pompeo’.
Let that sink in. The ‘Vicar of Christ’ snubbed Pompeo not just because the latter was planning to inform him about the living hell endured by the Chinese faithful, but also because he’s trying to thwart the reelection of a president who, whatever his faults, has done more to defend international religious freedom than any of his predecessors. I can’t find printable words to describe the disgust that evokes in me, so let me turn instead to the shortest verse in the entire Bible. John, chapter 11, verse 35: ‘Jesus wept.’