Mike Pompeo to Host Top Vatican Officials for Religious Freedom Symposium

ROME — The Vatican’s secretary of state and foreign minister will join U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a high-level symposium on international religious freedom on September 30.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See announced the meeting Saturday, as well as the participation of Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who together with Secretary Pompeo and several panelists will discuss “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy” at the Rome event.

“The symposium will highlight diplomatic tools that governments, international organizations, and faith-based organizations can use to identify and confront religious persecution and encourage international cooperation to protect and promote religious freedom,” the official press release reads.

“Religious persecution and restrictions on religious freedom are among the most pressing global human rights concerns today,” the statement continues. “Promoting and securing religious freedom is a cornerstone of the United States’ diplomatic relationship with the Holy See.”

“The United States understands that upholding the right to religious freedom is not just a moral necessity, it is a national security imperative. When nations effectively promote and protect religious freedom, they are safer, more prosperous, and secure,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich.

Just over a week ago, Secretary Pompeo published an article in which he urged the Vatican to use its moral authority to pressure China on the issue of human rights and religious liberty.

“The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, especially those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes like Beijing’s,” Pompeo wrote in a September 18 essay for First Things.

“In the late twentieth century, the Church’s power of moral witness helped inspire those who liberated central and eastern Europe from communism, and those who challenged autocratic and authoritarian regimes in Latin America and East Asia,” Pompeo wrote. “That same power of moral witness should be deployed today with respect to the Chinese Communist Party.”

“What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the Party and its totalitarian program,” he added.

The Vatican is currently negotiating with officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regarding the renewal of a controversial secret joint agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops in China.

In his essay, Mr. Pompeo said the Vatican hoped the accord “would improve the condition of Catholics in China by reaching agreement with the Chinese regime on the appointment of bishops,” something he insists has not happened.

“Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other religious believers,” Pompeo wrote.

On Thursday, the BBC reported that China has “expanded its network of detention centres for its Uighur minority despite insisting the ‘re-education’ system was being scaled back,” updating stories from last summer reporting the detention of more than a million Uighur Muslims.

There are some 380 reeducation camps in China’s Xinjiang region, about 40 percent more than previous estimates, according to a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The report “identifies 100 more detention sites than previous investigations have shown, based on analysis of satellite imagery, interviews with eyewitnesses, media reports and official documents,” the BBC stated.