US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Thursday urged the Vatican to join the United States in condemning violations of religious freedom in China.
Earlier this month, Pompeo criticised the Vatican for renewing an agreement with China over how the Roman Catholic Church can operate there. In Thursday’s speech, he did not directly address the deal between Vatican and Beijing, but he described China as the world’s worst abuser of religious rights.
“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than it is inside of China today. That’s because, as with all communist regimes, the Chinese Communist Party deems itself the ultimate moral authority”, Pompeo said during an event hosted by the US embassy to the Holy See.
The agreement between the Vatican and China allows the pope to name bishops in China. However, many believe that concession was made at the expense of Chinese Catholics who have long worshiped in the shadows. The Vatican said the agreement was purely an ecclesial matter about bishop nominations and was not a political or diplomatic agreement.
“The question of protecting religious freedom so as to allow the local Catholic Church to exercise its mission remains an indispensable part of the scope and activity of the Holy See”, said Archbishop Paul Gallagher.